Enemy of the State

Enemy of the State ★★★½

"You're either very smart... or incredibly stupid." To be honest, that quote could probably sum up the nature of Enemy of the State as a whole, which feels like a weird cross between 70s conspiracy thrillers (ala The Conversation) and 90s Jerry Bruckheimer-style excess. Right from the frenetically edited opening titles, this one had my attention and never let go, so it clearly did something right.

Will Smith plays a wisecracking D.C. lawyer named Robert Dean, who seems to have it all going for him. Sadly, his luck is about to change, and he finds himself on the run from a group of corrupt NSA agents when he accidentally receives a tape displaying the murder of a congressman. The only one who can help him? Well Gene Hackman as Ed Lyle of course, an ex-NSA agent whose been living of the grid for a good while.

Like any conspiracy-based film from the time, the narrative feels needlessly contrived, and the focus on technology comes off as rather bollocks nowadays, even though I don't doubt the U.S government could pull off a lot of the shit depicted here. On the other hand, it delivers plenty of non-stop thrills, and it's cast is put to good use. Smith and Hackman (who always delivers) share some surprisingly fine chemistry, and Jon Voight is brilliantly evil as corrupt politician Thomas Brian Reynolds.

As per usual, Tony Scott (god rest him) packs this with all of his usual flashy directional traits (at least before he went overboard with Man On Fire). Frequent use of dutch angles, ominous close-ups, darkly-lit environments and of course loud and exciting action, you pretty much know when you're watching one of his works. I must also give him props for including another blood-soaked Mexican standoff (ala True Romance), where Tom Sizemore is again involved.

Scott's kinetic direction and the cast makes this an entertaining ride that's (for me at least) one of the best of Bruckheimer/Scott collaborations. It's a fun bit of popcorn fare that mostly works if you have your brain turned off, so if you're a fan of any of the people involved (cast or crew alike), go for it by all means.


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