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"Enemy of the State" -- I wouldn't line my Cat box with this cliched crap...

Mar 1, 2001 (Updated Mar 4, 2001)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A well directed, visually stunning, bag full of cliches...

Cons:A well directed, visually stunning, bag full of cliches...

The Bottom Line: A well directed, visually stunning, bag full of cliches...


"Enemy of the State" is a bag full of cliches that tries hard to create character, but lost my interest to quickly that by the timing came up with some originality and interesting twists -- it was too late. The movie fails to capture our interests because it develops no attachment between the audience in the characters.

"Enemy of the State" is the latest movie to present us with the paranoia of government conspiracies that look into and take over our lives with the flash of a wand. In that respect the movie is similar to "The Siege", "Breakdown", and the wonderful 1995 television series "Nowhere Man". And, perhaps, that is why "Enemy of the State" should have been a television series instead - the filmmakers have given us a lot here, and I think it's complex storyline seems more appropriate for that format.

The movie opens of the death of a congressman. He's murdered and this murder is caught on tape. And, of course it's this tape that the murderers want. It turns out that the murderer is actually a fellow politician who wants a bill passed that would allow the government extraordinary powers to monitor, videotape and record our lives, to effectively make sure that we are not up to no good. However, at this point the movie begins to fall apart. And did I mention that we are only fifteen minutes into the movie?

At this point the movie shifts focus to star Will Smith's character and introduces his family, his work (here he's a lawyer working at a prestigious law firm. This, I think, is a mistake, Will Smith just isn't a lawyer. He's too flamboyant, too quick to pull a one-liner, he's too much the Will Smith we've seen before in other movies like "Independence Day," or "Men In Black.") The character seems like it was written to be played by an actor that could bring the seriousness and astonishment required in the situation the movie presents us with).

Luckily, after what seems like another hour of the movie, things start to pick up. Will Smith is being relentlessly pursued by the enemy, (in this case the politician and the extraordinary means this politician has to track him down - consider it 'your tax dollars at work'). These means are very fancy and sophisticated tools such as satellite tracking technology, sound and video recording devices, as well as a plethora of assorted surveillance technologies. And did I mention that this politician also has the men who can operate all these technologies flawlessly? Well, he does, I'd love to see how he justifies his spending!

But these are technologies we have seen before in other movies. These are resources we've seen used in other movies. It's easy to list them - we've seen satellite tracking technology used in the Harrison Ford movie "Patriot Games," or in last year's "The Game," and this year's "Ronin." The technologies are already familiar characters to the audience and are over used in "Enemy of the State." They are used in a loud, cut up, music video cum Michael Bay style that hits us relentlessly (and in a messy unorganized way).

In the long run, I'll admit that the movie almost saves itself, by introducing at the halfway point - Gene Hackman's character. Here his character is sort of a play on his wonderful character of the Francis Ford Coppola movie "The Conversation," which also explored similar ideas as this movie, only in a much better fashion.

And I did like the ending which pitted all sides against each other a-la "Resevoir Dogs." But, when it comes down to it, "Enemy of the State" could have been a much better movie. Or television series.

Grade: C-

(Movie originally reviewed on November 20, 1998)


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