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   ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998) 

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CAST
Will Smith
Gene Hackman
Jon Voight
Lisa Bonet
Regina King
Tom Sizemore
Gabriel Byrne
Loren Dean
Jason Lee
Barry Pepper
Jack Black

DIRECTED BY
Tony Scott

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 130 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Action


It's sad when a movie has such potential and doesn't meet one iota of it. ENEMY OF THE STATE has great talent, an interesting if not completely original story, and OK action sequences, so why is it such a boring movie. Think THE NET on steroids and that's what Simpson/Bruckheimer delivers. While we all like to think the government is out to get us (and they probably are watching us more than we want to believe) the technology they try to get us to swallow in this movie would choke a hippo. Granted the National Security Agency probably has some pretty sophisticated toys that they more than occasionally point at the general public, but come on they're a division of the government. Are we supposed to believe they actually know how to use this stuff? Maybe all the ineffectual employees filing seats across administrations are just decoys for the exceptionally bright ones they have hiding behind closed doors. Not only that, but the guys they have acting as these super, savvy techies are barley old enough to be out of college and look like they would be more comfortable at a game arcade than a government office. But I digress.

Basically Will Smith's character is chased by officials from the NSA because an old friend of his passed him a computer disk containing the murder of a congressman he just happened to capture on video. Personally, if I caught a murder on tape I would carry that sucker to the nearest police station or newspaper office as fast as my little feet could carry me. Would I place a phone call, which can be traced and tells whoever's listening that I have this incriminating evidence? I don't think so, but let's just ignore that little bit of common sense, because the filmmakers do. Anyway, through very sophisticated and completely unbelievable computer technology, the bad guys figure out that Will might potentially have the offending video and they set out to get it back, using whatever means necessary. At first they just bug and wire his home and person, cancel all his credit cards, smear his name in the local paper and get him fired from his job and thrown out of his house. Then when that doesn't yield the results they want, they track him down like a dog, chasing him all over DC causing chaos everywhere they go. So much for keeping this little operation a secret.


"I have been a law abiding citizen my whole life, and one day with you, I mean... shoot."

It isn't until Will hooks up with Brill (Gene Hackman's character) that he gets smart and starts to figure out what's going on. It's very difficult to swallow that inate stupidity his character has for the first hour of this movie. He's supposed to be a highly-paid intelligent attorney. Though I'm sure they exist I've never seen one on film as naive as this guy. Even Sandra Bullock's character in THE NET had more brains. Hackman plays a man who used to work for the NSA so he knows all their procedures. Fortunately for them, the organization hasn't changed them in the 20 years he's been underground. The good thing is I'm glad to see Hackman in anything. The bad news is he doesn't come in soon enough to even begin to save this movie. By working together, they manage to stay alive and beat the bad guys. The last half hour is the most clever part of the whole movie. Unfortunately, it's too little, too late. I did get some enjoyment out of watching Smith and Hackman, but even their talent couldn't save this film from complete outlandishness. ENEMY OF THE STATE could have been a great political thriller, but instead it's an empty action thriller with nothing more to say than watch out for the government because they're watching you. Something the X-FILES began telling us six years ago to much better effect.



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