Enemy of the State

A well-made film that combines two great actors, Gene Hackman and Will Smith, into a plot full of government espionage, conspiracy theories, and social paranoia. Director Tony Scott (Crimson Tide) utilizes special computerized effects, quick cuts, and unique tracking shots to sustain a quick action pace like past Bruckheimer/Simpson productions like Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun, Con Air, and The Rock (this film represents the last film Don Simpson produced with his partner before his unfortunate death).

Will Smith, plays lawyer Robert Clayton Dean in his first dramatically challenging role. Robert appeals as a good natured man even in the midst of crime saying lines like “I wanna be sure I’m not breaking the law.”  He tries to keep the audience in his corner as the scared guy who beats the system with some help from a cautious ex-government agent named Brill, played by Gene Hackman.

The main focus of the plot shows how Dean’s life becomes unraveled because of an involuntary involvement in a dangerous situation which then filters to other characters like Brill, Smith’s wife Carla & family, and an ex-girlfriend, played by Lisa Bonet (TV’s Cosby Show).

Scott uses some creative and dizzying chase sequences to increase the dramatic punch of the main characters’ desperate motives as they attempt to elude a notorious government agency that is “at war 24 hours a day.”  The plot is realistic except for one certain action made by the government agency.  Their superior states that “we don’t want police all over this”, yet the agency’s operatives vandalize a house in a later scene which, of course, prompts police involvement.  The character’s emotions carry out key pieces of the story as Dean’s intellect helps decide his fate while Brill’s heads-up analyses helps them both avoid trouble.

The supporting cast has numerous stars such as Jon Voight (Tomb Raider), the late Jason Robards (Philadelphia), Seth Green (Austin Powers), Tom Sizemore (Passenger 57), Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan, Battlefield Earth), Jason Lee (Chasing Amy), Stuart Wilson (Lethal Weapon 3), Regina King (Jerry Maguire), Gabriel Bryne (End of Days), Jack Black (School of Rock), Jake Busey (Contact), and Scott Caan (Varsity Blues).

The well-planned script, combined with the two stars wide appeal, elevates this movie above average action films into a worthwhile escape for the moviegoer. Good entertainment value and exciting action sequences should keep you cheering for the protagonist characters to escape.

Better executed by the filmmakers than most action films while having an unusually strong story.  Highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars) and rated R for language and violence.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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