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Enemy of the State: Unrated Extended Edition DVD Review

Enemy of the State: Unrated Extended Edition

May 16, 2006

Director: Tony Scott,
Starring: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Regina King, Loren Dean, Jake Busey, Barry Pepper, Gabriel Byrne, Jason Lee, Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Scott Caan, Jamie Kennedy, Tom Sizemore, Seth Green, Jason Robards,

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DVD Review

Back when Enemy of the State came out in 1998, some of the events depicted and some of the technology that was used seemed unthinkable. After all, one of the main plot points is the United States government trying to pass legislation that would allow them to put any citizen under surveillance for any reason. My how times have changed. Now, this has become a reality as the President has admitted to doing what is depicted in this film, making a Jerry Bruckheimer/Don Simpson film eerily prophetic (?!).

A top National Security Agency official (Voight) kills a senator (Robards) who opposes legislation that would allow the government to spy on its own people. Robert Dean (Smith) is a hot shot Washington, D.C. lawyer whose life gets a whole lot more complicated when he is unknowingly given a video of the senator’s murder. Before he knows it, the NSA official and his men are making Dean’s life a living hell, probing into his personal life in an effort to discredit him. He loses his job and his wife (King) kicks him out of his home.

As they apply more pressure, Dean becomes a fugitive and meets a surveillance savvy informant (Hackman) who clues him in to what is happening. The film kicks into high gear once we are introduced to Gene Hackman’s enigmatic character. It is brief but incredibly effective, whetting our appetite for more.

The film evokes paranoid thrillers of the 1970s with the presence of Hackman, who starred in one of the best of that period, The Conversation (1974), and political thrillers like All the President’s Men (1976) with Jason Robards in a small role early on. To complete the trifecta they also cast another ‘70s mainstay Jon Voight. It is canny casting as these veteran thespians would draw in an older crowd while the cast of young actors that surround them would lure a younger demographic as well.

Voight’s team of computer hackers and agents is a who’s who of then up-and-coming actors: Jason Lee, Jamie Kennedy, Jack Black, Seth Green and Barry Pepper. Most of them come across as video game playing uber geeks that post no serious threat to Dean. To these young computer programmers their pursuit of Dean is akin to playing a very expensive video game because their only interaction with him is through computer monitors and satellite relays.

Will Smith does a decent job as the wronged man who must clear his name and bring down the bad guys. He keeps the wisecracks and one-liners to a tolerable level. Because of his easygoing likeability factor it makes Smith instantly sympathetic and we want to root for him to succeed. However, it also makes his character beyond reproach. Unlike the protagonist in any of the aforementioned paranoid thrillers of the ‘70s there are no gray area characters in Enemy of the State. They are either good guys or bad guys. It is this simplistic approach to the characters that is the film’s glaring flaw and one that would be improved upon greatly in the similarly themed television show, 24.

Throughout it all, director Tony Scott keeps things moving at a brisk pace, creating the efficient, impersonal kind of action thriller that has made the studios a lot of money and established his reputation as the go-to guy for entertaining, testosterone-heavy crowd pleasers. In his hands, Enemy of the State acts an unofficial sequel to The Conversation albeit filtered through his hyper-kinetic style. It’s as if Hackman’s character went underground and became a Deep Throat-style informant or joined the Lone Gunmen from The X-Files. In between car chases and gun battles, the film raises some interesting questions about an individual’s right to privacy and this was pre-9/11. The film shows how easily someone’s life can be dragged through the mud if their past is put under a microscope and manipulated for a desired effect.

Special Features:

There are two deleted scenes. One that is so inconsequential it probably shouldn’t have even been filmed and an extension of another scene that was wisely truncated in the finished film.

“The Making of Enemy of the State” is a promotional featurette done at the time of filming. It hypes up a lot of technology that hadn’t been shown on film before. The filmmakers worked with two technical experts to make sure a lot of the technology and techniques used were authentic. This is a decent if not standard look at the movie.

“All Access: The Showdown” takes a look at the film’s climatic confrontation being filmed and shows how Scott orchestrates the action.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

In all honesty, none of the extras are really worth double-dipping on this title unless you are a huge fan of the movie. They are nice additions but not very substantial.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 76%

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