Review: [In Memory of Tony Scott 1944-2012] ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 20 May 2013

Review: [In Memory of Tony Scott 1944-2012] ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998)


A modern-day paranoia thriller in the vein of THREE DAYS OF CONDOR (1975) meets THE NET (1995) and THE FUGITIVE (1993), ENEMY OF THE STATE sees director Tony Scott returns with a bang in this high-concept, Big brother-is-watching thriller about how today's surveillance technology can invade your privacy and watches every steps of your way.

When Congressman Phil Hammersley (Jason Robards, in an uncredited role) was quietly murdered by one of the crooked officials from National Security Agency's (NSA), led by Thomas Brian Reynolds (Jon Voight) and make everything looks like an accident, little does Reynolds knows that he is unaware of a video camera set up in a bird hide by wildlife researcher Daniel Zavitz (Jason Lee). Ironically enough, the video camera has captured the entire incident in the bird park where Hammersley was murdered. Reynolds knows he'll be in deep trouble if he doesn't recovers the tape fast. So he sends a team of agents from his NSA unit to recover the tape by all means necessary before Daniel Zavitz make public about the footage. It doesn't take long before the agents manage to track Zavitz down, who has already seen the footage and at the same time successfully transferring the video to a computer disc. Zavitz quickly flees from his home, and subsequently runs into a lingerie store where he happens to chance upon an old college friend, labor lawyer Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith), who is Christmas-shopping for his wife, Carla (Regina King). Zavitz ends up slipping the computer disc into Dean's shopping bag and runs away. Before Dean has his chance to talk to him, next thing he knows, he discovers that Zavitz gets run over by an oncoming fire truck while riding a getaway bicycle away from his pursuing agents. The agents failed to find the video except a name card given by Dean earlier on from the lingerie store.

Using Dean's card as the next point to locate the video, they start to raid his house and plants surveillance devices at every necessary places, including some of Dean's personal items as well. Not only they continuously stalk Robert in every move he made, they also proceed on getting him fired, discredit his reputation, his bank accounts are frozen, and even made his wife throws him out of the house because she suspects him of having an affair with his former girlfriend, Rachel Banks (Lisa Bonet) -- and ultimately forced Dean on the run as a wanted fugitive.

Enter Brill (Gene Hackman), a veteran spy, who is Dean's only hope to save him from being tracked down by getting rid all of the tracking devices that planted on his wardrobe, his watch and his shoes. The situation gets worse when the agents kill Banks and frame Dean for the murder. To counter against NSA's further accusation, Dean and Brill are subsequently forced to work together to turn the table against them once and for all.

ENEMY OF THE STATE is no doubt Scott's best and most entertaining effort to date since two of his career's best -- TRUE ROMANCE (1993) and CRIMSON TIDE (1995) -- in term of its overall execution. Blessed with a dynamic script by David Marconi, this high-concept thriller is a first-rate entertainment of the highest order. Yes, it is also flawed as well, with a couple of implausibilities that requires a certain sense of suspension of disbelief to enjoy this kind of movie.

Apart from producer Jerry Bruckheimer's eye-catching production values and Scott's relentless direction that often keeps you distracted from questioning the logic of the sometimes far-fetched plot, the actors are among the saving grace here. Best of all, is their smart choice to put a well-known, yet solid superstar like Will Smith, to headline the movie. Likewise, his magnetic screen presence is fun and engaging to watch for. His comic timing (check out his improvised scene at the lingerie store) as well as his dramatic performance is simply top-notch. The rest of the supporting actors are equally solid, with two veterans Jon Voight in his usual slimy role and Gene Hackman, who reprised his similar surveillance expert character he once made popular in Francis Ford Coppola's THE CONVERSATION (1974). Although Hackman only appears mostly in the climax, his presence with Will Smith alone, is just fantastic enough.

Action-wise, there's nothing really innovative or particularly standout here, especially coming from a Jerry Bruckheimer production. Unless of course, if you count the bare-footed chase sequence involving Will Smith running in a hotel bathrobe while being pursued by a team of NSA agents. Still, the action remains entertaining enough to keep you glued to the seat. However, the cliffhanger finale is quite a disappointment. I mean, why Scott has to rehash the same Mexican standoff scene that he made better in TRUE ROMANCE before? And ironically enough, that scene happens to feature Tom Sizemore as well. It's just a tad uninspired, even though I find it kind of unexpected to see this kind of unnecessarily violent ending in a major Hollywood blockbuster.

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