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Tony Scott
Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King, Jason Lee, Barry Pepper, Ian Hart, Jake Busey, Scott Caan
Writing Credits:
David Marconi

It's not paranoia if they're really after you.

It's not paranoia if they're really after you. Will Smith stars as attorney Robert Clayton Dean, a man at the center of a high-stakes pursuit when he inadvertently comes into possession of secret information implicating corrupt officials within the government. Academy Award-winner Gene Hackman plays a mysterious information broker who comes to Smith's aid in this dynamite thriller.

Box Office:
$90 million.
Opening Weekend
$20.038 million on 2393 screens.
Domestic Gross
$111.544 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 132 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 6/15/1999

• Two Production Featurettes
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Enemy Of The State (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 12, 2006)

Another day, another Jerry Bruckheimer movie to review. I've often defended his films, though not so much because I'm a big fan; none of his pictures are very high on my "all-time favorites" list. Instead, I do so due to the fact that his work gets so widely bashed for being dumb and improbable/impossible. In my opinion, those critics miss the point, as Bruckheimer films function as nothing more than an exciting escape. Do these people criticize rollercoasters because the rides never made them think?

Surprisingly, 1998ís Enemy of the State largely avoided these criticisms. In part, this may be due to the fact it came so close on the heels of Armageddon, one of the Bruckheimer foesí favorite targets. However, the absence of attacks has a lot to do with the fact that Enemy actually offers a thought-provoking scenario: where is the line drawn between the public's right to know and a person's right to privacy?

Usually these discussions focus on issues that relate to public figures. For example, just how much about the president's private life do we deserve to know? Enemy, on the other hand, takes a much creepier view at the subject by demonstrating the ways that technology could be used to infiltrate and destroy a person's life.

This isn't new territory. The Net looked at this a few years earlier. Nonetheless, Enemy succeeds with a style and excitement that previous examinations of this subject lacked. It offers just enough brain fodder to provoke you, but it still keeps its focus where it counts: on the thriller aspects of the tale.

As I've said in the past, Bruckheimer usually knows his strengths and plays to them. If the audiences think the films are stupid, so be it, but don't fault him for doing what he does best. Director Tony Scott enjoyed a decent run with Bruckheimer, especially in the Nineties. His Crimson Tide remains arguably the finest Bruckheimer film to date. Both that film and Enemy share a similar formula: interest the audience with a thought-provoking issue and keep them enthralled with gripping action and tension.

Don't get me wrong: Enemy is probably not one of those movies you'll feel compelled to discuss for hours with friends. At best, you'll probably think, "Oooh! Creepy!" as it ends, and then you'll flip on a ballgame. Still, it does deserve credit for at least attempting to posit something of a social issue, which is more than we get from most films.

Of course, the topic seems all the more interesting given the Bush administrationís desire to spy on everyone. The movie offers many of the same arguments in favor and against this in recent years. Current events have made Enemy seem almost prescient.

Probably the most fault that can be found with Enemy stems from its view of the US government as some sort of organization that can actually pull off a good conspiracy. One of the biggest flaws with theories about the government's alleged cover-ups of Roswell or of the Kennedy assassination stems from the fact that so much ineptness occurs daily in that organization. If they couldn't keep the Watergate break-in a secret, how in the hell have they kept the lid on such hot button issues as those? This all-powerful government makes for fun movie fodder, but it's completely out of touch with the realities of the situation.

Technologically, Enemy seems rather suspect as well. I'm no expert, but I have my doubts about a lot of the methods on display in this film. Do they exist Ė at least as of 1998 - and could they be used in these ways? Maybe, I guess. Is it likely that we'd reached such a high level of technological sophistication and flawlessness in 1998? Not really.

Still, I have to come back to my original approach: no one said this was a documentary. Enemy is supposed to be an exciting thrill ride of a movie, and it succeeds. It's interesting to note that it can't be called a "whodunit," because we see the culprits right from the outset. The tension in the film completely revolves around discovering how our hero, Robert Dean (Will Smith), will eventually emerge from the villains' clutches. Is there ever any doubt that he will win? Nope. But the fun comes from the ways that he does it. I thought Enemy offered one of the more clever and entertaining conclusions that I've seen from this kind of film.

As would be expected in a Bruckheimer film, production values are topnotch and it includes a very strong cast. The Bruckheimer formula insists that the actors include a number of big stars, and Enemy doesn't falter in that regard. Smith does some of his best work as Dean. He manages to keep the smartass charm racheted down a few notches and creates a believable character. Unlike his roles in Independence Day and Men in Black, he lets himself come across as much more human and fallible here. Gene Hackman also does his usual strong work as the mysterious Brill. Although they don't spend all that much time onscreen together, he and Smith create a nice chemistry between themselves.

(On an unusual cast note, Enemy has to feature more uncredited actors in fairly large roles than I can remember. Tom Sizemore, Jason Robards, and Seth Green are not credited for their parts, even though all are important players. Is this some kind of Hollywood hip thing? Do actors feel more important when they don't get written credit for their work? I don't get it.)

Scott does a competent job in the director's chair. I donít think much of him as a director overall, but he manages to hold his own and he keeps the movie proceeding at a nice clip. Thereís not a lot about Enemy of the State that seems remarkable, but the movie balances issues, action and suspense well enough to keep us interested.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio A-/ Bonus D-

Enemy of the State appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Back in the early days of DVD, I thought this title looked great. Time hasnít treated the transfer well, however, and it now seemed problematic.

Digital hazards created the biggest concerns. An awful lot of edge enhancement was apparent, and this gave the image an unstable look. Close-ups fared pretty well, but wide shots shimmered, strobed and looked jagged. They had a messy look to them caused by the haloes. This meant that beyond those close shots, definition was mediocre to poor.

Print flaws were another problem, though not to the same degree. I noticed occasional specks, spots, marks and blotches. While these werenít dominant, they seemed too heavy for a recent movie.

Otherwise, the transfer had quite a few positives. Colors tended to be bold and brilliant, while blacks were deep and tight. Low-light shots offered good clarity and delineation. I saw too many good elements for me to knock this transfer below a ďCĒ, but it definitely had many concerns. Note that on bigger displays Ė especially 16X9 TVs Ė the visuals will look worse and worse. I tolerated them because I have a 4X3 set; I expect this transfer would look atrocious on a widescreen TV.

While the visuals demonstrated problems, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Enemy of the State seemed consistently satisfying. I expect lively audio from Bruckheimer action extravaganzas, and while Enemy wasnít as wild as something like Armageddon, it still worked very well. The soundfield used all five channels to good effect. Vehicles dominated the more active pieces, as helicopters, cars and other objects moved about us cleanly. Gunfire and the like also featured prominently, and the mix helped form a nicely three-dimensional impression. Music boasted good stereo imaging as well, and the surrounds displayed a lot of information.

No problems with audio quality occurred. Speech was consistently natural and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other flaws. Music sounded bright and dynamic, and effects followed in the same vein. Those elements appeared clean and accurate, and they boasted very nice bass response. Low-end was smooth and deep. All in all, this was a strong mix.

One note: when I originally reviewed Enemy back in 1999, I mentioned some distortion in the rear right speaker that occurred around the 90-minute mark. When I watched it in 2006, I no longer noticed that problem. This couldnít have been related to my system as I used exactly the same audio equipment for this screening. Back in 1999, I speculated that there may have been something wrong with my rental DVD, and that remains the likely culprit.

The DVD comes with very few extras. The primary attraction comes from two production featurettes, but donít expect anything substantial. Both programs run for about three minutes each and function as nothing more than glorified trailers. We see some shots from the set along with movie clips and soundbites from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, actors Will Smith, Regina King, Gene Hackman and Jon Voight, and director Tony Scott. Their notes tell us little and act solely to promote the flick.

The DVD includes four trailers. We get one for Enemy itself along with promos for The Rock, Con Air, and Armageddon. That's it!

Enemy of the State offers one of the better flicks from the Bruckheimer factory. It presents an intriguing concept thatís gotten even more relevant over time, and it includes more than enough action to maintain our interest. While the DVD features very good audio, it suffers from significant picture problems and almost no extras. The movie merits a rental but I canít recommend a purchase of this flawed DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1333 Stars Number of Votes: 15
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