Enemy of the State (1998) / Thriller-Action

MPAA Rated: R for language and violence
Running Time: 132 min.

Cast: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King
Director: Tony Scott
Screenplay: David Marconi
Review published May 20, 1999

DC lawyer Robert Clayton Dean (Smith, Men in Black) is the unwitting recipient of a tape recording of a murder. Not just any murder, but of an assassination made by none other than the senior advisor to the National Security Agency. With a privacy bill about to be passed affording almost unquestioned sanction for the NSA to do what it pleases, they are out to get this tape at any costs. Dean heads out on the run, but after they attempt to discredit him with his family, friends, workers and public he has nowhere to turn, especially since they have bugged all his clothes, tap all his phones and follow him everywhere he goes.

A truly wretched movie almost saved by the two leads...almost. The charms of Will Smith and credibility of Gene Hackman (Twilight, Crimson Tide) are the only thing that keep this misfire together, with an unbelievably overblown screenplay and the "all-star" supporting cast of washed-up actors and annoying young next-gen wannabes. Tony Scott (True Romance, Days of Thunder) gives the film his usual slick and dark look, which works fine for the paranoia film that it is, but does every shot have to look cool? Does every computer screen and graphic have to look more state-of-the-art than current technology allows? The film is so slick that it virtually destroys any ounce of credibility it holds early on.

Hackman doesn't even appear until halfway through the movie, and while things do improve once he arrives, it's a case of too little, too late. Think of this as a cross between North by Northwest and The Conversation (in which Hackman is a paranoia film about tapping also starring Hackman, to which there are at least four homages to in Enemy), but in the hands of morons. Somehow the comic mugging of the leads keeps the film watchable, but you'd virtually have to have a full-on mental meltdown to buy a plot this idiotic and situations this incredible.

Qwipster's rating:

1999 Vince Leo