Ah Tony Scott… king of schlock filmmaking. Yet this ain’t a film from the 80s Tony Scott from the “Top Gun” days, but the slightly edgier, more stylish 90s Tony Scott, post-“True Romance” (his collaboration with Tarantino). Of course, this is still a Jerry Bruckheimer production, so the film is lightning fast and action packed, but it has an intriguing plot and it’s even rather thought-provoking. It’s an odd balance, but it pays off to a certain degree. It’s entertaining, that’s for sure.
Will Smith plays Robert Stanton Dean, a big league lawyer who often risks his neck suing the Mob. He’s still a regular Joe with a wife and kid, who’s presently doing his Christmas shopping. Yet his life is about to be real fucked up. While buying lingerie for his wife, an old college friend (Jason Lee) on the run for his life hides a politically comprometting tape in Dean’s bags. He doesn’t even know it, but that makes him the target of the CIA and the National Security Agency, who definitively don’t want the tape to be released to the media. And since it’s the end of the millenium, these government types have amazing hardware to help them tracking Dean: satellites, micros, cameras, tracers… Can he ever escape?
That’s the premisce of the film, and I don’t think it’s all exagerrated conspiracy theories. I don’t know if the government would do this, but I’m sure they could. Big Brother is watching you! The twists are a bit predictable, but the flick is still exciting and relatively fresh, even though it borrows from “The Net”, “Total Recall”, “The Fugitive”, “The Firm”, “The X-Files” and other paranoia-fueled thrillers. As I said, we’re also in Bruckheimer territory, with his darling Tony Scott in the director chair, so we can expect their usual extremely rapid, MTV-style editing, a loud faux-Wagnerian score and crystal sharp visuals. This might be superficial and shallow, but I do appreciate technical quality.
Plus, this film is quite smart, and the cast is interesting. I love Will Smith, whether it’s on TV or on the big screen, and he’s very good here. He has his funny moments, but his part is still more demanding than his silly roles in “ID4” and “MiB”. Gene Hackman and Jon Voight play efficiently surveillance aces on opposite sides, while a handful of young stars interprate, well, a handful of young CIA agents: Seth Green, Jamie Kennedy, Jake Busey… There are also cameos by Gabriel Byrne and Tom Sizemore.
Ultimately, “Enemy of the State” ain’t perfect, but I’d still recommend it. It’s thrilling, and it explore an interesting issue, namely the line between so-called national security and invasion of privacy. In a year where the President’s sexual life is splashed on front pages by nosy prosecutors, Lord knows this is all too actual.