Review of “Enemy of the State” (1998) R 140min
April 14th, 2008 by Maxim · No Comments · 5,702 Views
Ridley Scott’s brother Tony directed this action flick starring Will Smith, Jon Voight, Gene Hackman, Lisa Bonet, Jack Black, Gabriel Byrne, and . He’s also known for producing series Numb3rs and The Company and films like Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford and directing such movies as Tristan & Isolde, In Her Shoes, Man on Fire, Agent Orange, Spy Game, Crimson Tide, True Romance and also for using mostly American actors in lead roles, unlike his brother.
The plot: A successful Washington D.C. labor layer Robert Dean (Will Smith) with wife Carla (Regina King) and son (Jascha Washington). Before Christmas, he accidentally meets his old buddy who, without him knowing, slips him a tape of NSA goons murdering a senator who refused to cooperate on passing a legislature that will enable NSA to do unwarranted wiretapping and surveillance. Soon Dean witnesses his friend’s death, finds his assets frozen, his family being placed under surveillance and a loved one (Lisa Bonet who played my favorite character on The Cosby Show) murdered. Not knowing what’s going on, he must stay one step ahead of NSA with help from a rogue NSA communications specialist named “Brill” (Gene Hackman). Meantime, NSA dedicates its vast resources to finding Robert and destroying the evidence and Robert’s credibility.
The good: This is a rather thrilling and intelligent chase movie. Nice performances by everyone: Will Smith, Regina King, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight and even little Jascha, who is a very experienced child actor by now. The actors in supporting roles like “NSA thugs”, namely Barry Pepper and Jake Busey (yes, son of that Busey, Gary) and NSA geeks, Jack Black and Jamie Kennedy were also quite effective and fun to recognize and watch. But most important thing that I liked was the issue the film is about: America turning into a police society where civil rights are taken away in favor of security and nobody has any privacy at all – imagine the world where anyone can be watched all the time. “Obviously, regular citizens have nothing to fear because the government will only wiretap the suspected criminals”. But who decides who is a suspected criminal? Who controls those who spy on people? The movie talks a lot about “the delicate balance between liberties in the free society and public safety”. Jon Voight was terrific as the villain. And how about those “Guidos”, Tom Sizemore and others? Cool and scary! Nice to see Gene Hackman reviving his character from “The Conversation”. In fact, the picture of younger Brill in the movie was taken from 1974 “The Conversation”, and the character also was living and working in the abandoned industrial warehouse. The dialogs are awesome too (see quotes below). And the Mexican standoff in the end was the definition of thrill.
The bad: the NSA staff and surveillance rooms and their technology were not believable at all: they look like sci-fi or Cold War-era depictions of “situation rooms” where computers blip-blip, there’s a big screen in the middle of the room, and someone’s always commanding “c’mon, people, let’s get going!”. Some stunts and parts of chase sequences were not believable at all – they were often “Die-Hard” style. I prefer chase sequences in movies with Harrison Ford, where his character is usually a regular guy without any special training in unusual irregular circumstances.
Robert: Actually, I believe the term “shyster” is reserved for attorneys of the Jewish persuasion. I believe the proper term for me is “eggplant”.
Robert: You’re the only woman for me. You and Janet Jackson.
Brill: You are either incredibly smart or incredibly stupid. If you live another day I will be very impressed.
Carla: Oh, well there goes the Fourth Amendment… what’s left of it.
Brill: You’re transmitting. Get rid of your watch. – My wife gave me that watch. – Then keep it.
Reynolds: You think we’re the end of democracy? I think we’re democracy’s last.
Robert: Baby, I love you and only you. That is it… And I love your family… except for your dad.
Brill: Asshole! – Robert: Great plan!
The summary: a very nice chase/action thriller about a regular guy caught in the middle of political murder that had to do with unlimited surveillance on American people.
Similar and related movies: Crimson Tide, French Connection, The Fugitive, The Firm, Marathon Man, Conspiracy Theory.
DVD Bonus material:
- Theatrical trailer
- Production Featurette #1
- Production Featurette #2
- DVD Previews/Trailers
- Film Recommendations
The cast: Robert Clayton Dean – Will Smith | Carla Dean – Regina King | Eric Dean – Jascha Washington | Congressman Albert – Stuart Wilson | Brill – Gene Hackman | Fake Brill – Gabriel Byrne | Reynolds – Jon Voight | Rachel Banks – Lisa Bonet | Fiedler – Jack Black | Jamie – Jamie Kennedy
The credits: Director – Tony Scott | Script – David Marconi | Producers – Jerry Bruckheimer, Andrew Z. Davis, Chad Oman, Pat Sandston, James W. Skotchdopole | Original Music – Harry Gregson-Williams and Trevor Rabin | Cinematography – Daniel Mindel | Touchstone Pictures | Jerry Bruckheimer Films | Scott Free Productions
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