Volume 92, Issue 46
Wednesday, November 25, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Exploding government conspiracies
Photo by Linda R. Chen
WHY DON'T YOU GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE I GET JIGGY WITH YOU. Gene Hackman lays down the law to Will Smith and plenty of other stars in the latest suspense movie Enemy of the State.
By Anthony Turow
The government is constantly watching! Satellites are actually sophisticated cameras which can zoom in on someone's backyard from over 100 miles in the air. The government places tracking devices and taps people's phones at will. There is no privacy anymore.
This is the premise behind Enemy of the State, the new thriller from Tony Scott (Crimson Tide, True Romance). Maybe calling Enemy of the State a thriller, in the conventional sense, is a little misleading.
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it bears the signature touches he brought to films such as Con Air, The Rock and Armageddon slick production values, pumped-up soundtrack and a lot of things blowing up. Maybe calling it "thrilling" is more like it.
Scott does manage to break from Bruckheimer's restraints enough to avoid crafting an assembly line production, however, he is helped by some high-watt star power and some nifty visuals.
Will Smith stars as Robert Clayton Dean, a man who finds himself pursued by government agents after a brief encounter with a college friend leaves him in the possession of a very important video. This leads the government to employ elaborate monitoring devices to constantly watch Dean. They also sabotage his life, resulting in the loss of his job. It is a full-out, paranoid, Orwellian nightmare where one can't escape "Big Brother" just hopefully outrun him.
And boy, does Smith run. Scott manages to film some dazzling chase scenes which heighten tension and allow Smith to flex his action hero muscles. Smith also gets to fire off some obligatory one-liners which help to deflate tension and lighten the mood.
Yet it wouldn't be fair to call Smith's work a performance, as it is more like two hours of brazen attitude. But it suits Enemy of the State just fine. What Smith's role required was someone a little larger than life, not a nuanced character.
The one exceptional performance is delivered by Gene Hackman. His portrayal of Brill, a grumpy, hypoglycemic, ex-National Security Association paranoid whiz is very entertaining. Hackman creates a great persona obsessive, crude and a jumpy mess. He's clearly a little too aware of the dangers surrounding both Smith and himself. Still, it's a shame he doesn't appear until halfway through the film.
Ultimately, the saviour of the film is Scott's direction. He keeps things moving at such a frenzied pace that it is pretty difficult to get bored. Smith and Hackman's verbal jousting is also amusing in a run of the mill, mismatched, buddy movie kind of way. However, it had the potential to be a little better it's a shame when great ideas come as afterthoughts to explosions.
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