Enemy of the State review, Enemy of the State DVD review

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Buy your copy from Amazon.com Enemy of the State (1998) starstarstarhalf starno star Starring: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Barry Pepper, Jon Voight, Regina King, Ian Hart, Lisa Bonet, Jake Busey, Jamie Kennedy, Jason Lee, Gabriel Byrne, Jack Black
Director: Tony Scott
Rating: R
Category: Action/Thriller

When “Enemy of the State” first hit theaters in 1998, it was a mainstream techno-thriller that basically combined the Big Brother concept with the reminder that you’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you. But, of course, while half the audience said, “Dammit, I knew the government was watching us,” the rest of the crowd just ate their popcorn and went, “Cool movie,” without thinking much about how real or unreal the events of the flick might’ve been.

One Patriot Act later, however, and, suddenly, “Enemy of the State” doesn’t seem nearly as fictional.

Will Smith plays attorney Robert Clayton Dean, who accidentally gets caught up in a political cover-up when a college friend (Jason Lee) passes him a computer diskette that contains video footage of a congressman (played by an uncredited Jason Robards) being murdered at the hands of a member of the National Security Agency (Jon Voight). Dean doesn’t even realize he has the diskette until Voight’s character goes all out to destroy Dean’s life in order to get the evidence from him. In the process, Dean meets up with a former member of the Agency (Gene Hackman), who, frankly, doesn’t want anything to do with him…but he’s caught in Dean’s wake, and the two reluctantly team up in an attempt to get their lives back.

Like most Tony Scott action extravaganzas, “Enemy of the State” works best when you turn off your mind and just let the on-screen antics wash over you. Will Smith has enough charisma to carry most films by himself, but he’s really in his element in a slam-bang action flick like this. Hackman is in his well-honed grumpy old man mode, but he’s in familiar territory with this particular character; there’s an in-joke for film fans when they show his Agency ID photo from the early ‘70s and use a shot from his role in “The Conversation,” where he also played a surveillance expert. It’s also cool to see Jamie Kennedy and Jack Black in early roles, as well as Lee in his pre-“Earl” days.

What’ll really freak you out about this film, though, is that as you think about how the government is trying to hunt down terrorists using even more intricate technology than what you’re seeing in the film, they show Voight’s character’s Agency profile…and his birth date is 9/11. That’s just creepy, man.

DVD Review:
Actually, all things considered, it’s really not all that special an edition. There are two featurettes – a half-hour “making-of” documentary that’s pretty interesting, and an “All Access” segment on the filming of showdown at the end of the movie – but, beyond that, all you’ve got is the theatrical trailer and a whopping two deleted scenes…which is odd, given that the overseas version of the DVD includes four deleted scenes. Also, it’s strange that this is being billed in advertisements as being an extended edition…but the DVD box itself says no such thing. So have the other two deleted scenes been incorporated into the film? It doesn’t appear so, since according to Amazon, the running time of the film is actually a minute shorter than on the previous DVD release. Weird.

~Will Harris

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