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(1998) (Will Smith, Gene Hackman) (R)

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Suspense/Thriller: Having unknowingly received evidence concerning a government-based murder, a lawyer finds his life turned upside down as covert government officials try to find out what he knows.
Robert Clayton Dean (WILL SMITH) is a Washington, DC-based labor lawyer hoping to expose a local mobster, Pintero (TOM SIZEMORE). With evidence supplied by his informant contact, Rachel Banks (LISA BONET), Dean puts the squeeze on the thug who, in turn, threatens him unless he confesses to his informant's identity.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking NSA official, Thomas Reynolds (JON VOIGHT), who's tired of haggling with a Congressman (JASON ROBARDS) opposed to a new surveillance bill, has that man killed. Unbeknownst until later to Reynolds and his small hit squad, a hidden bird watching camera has captured the whole event on videotape.

When they discover that the camera's owner, nature photographer Daniel Zavitz (JASON LEE), is preparing to take it to the press, Reynolds has his thugs go after him. During a citywide chase, Zavitz happens to run into Dean and secretly places that video into the lawyer's shopping bags.

Learning that this has occurred, Reynolds and his right-hand man, Agent Hicks (LOREN DEAN) send a group of covert operatives, including Krug (JAKE BUSEY), Pratt (BARRY PEPPER), Jones (SCOTT CAAN), Fiedler (JACK BLACK) and Jamie (JAMIE KENNEDY), to discover what Dean may know about the video. In the process, they destroy his life by having him lose his job, his credit, and his wife, Carla (REGINA KING), who worries when she receives pictures of him and Rachel, his former girlfriend and lover from a recent affair, together.

As Dean goes to her for help, he finds that she's in the same predicament, but also learns of her enigmatic informant, Brill (GENE HACKMAN), a former intelligence operative, whom she's never met. Eventually figuring out that Pintero isn't responsible for his life being upended, Dean then realizes that Brill may be the only person able to help him. Once the two finally meet, the unlikely partners set out to clear their names and do what they can to turn the tables on Reynolds.

If they're fans of Will Smith ("Men In Black," "Independence Day") or conspiracy thrillers, they probably will (although they may be disappointed that they can't get in due to the R rating).
For language and violence.
  • WILL SMITH plays a DC-based labor lawyer who finds his life turned upside down when the NSA targets him. Trying to clear his name, he does what he must (stealing a man's clothing at gunpoint, etc...), and along the way cusses some and we learn that he had an affair in past.
  • GENE HACKMAN plays an angry, ex-NSA agent who cusses a lot and eventually, but reluctantly helps Dean.
  • JON VOIGHT plays a corrupt NSA official who has a Congressman killed and then sets out to destroy Dean's life so as to cover his own behind.
  • LISA BONET plays Dean's informant and former girlfriend with whom he had an affair before the story begins.


    OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
    Movie audiences love plots concerning the everyday person caught up in extraordinary circumstances. From Cary Grant in "North By Northwest" and Harrison Ford in "The Fugitive," to John Travolta in "Blow Out," and Robert Redford headlining "Three Days of the Condor," watching these actors portraying men pushed to their limits has always thrilled moviegoers.

    Now, thanks to mega-action film producer Jerry Bruckheimer and veteran director Tony Scott, you can add Will Smith's onscreen persona to that illustrious list of famous characters who spend two hours or so (of our time) trying to unravel a conspiracy, clear their name, and avoid being killed.

    An updated retreading of the "evidence can be bad for you" scenario found in films such as "Blow Out" (itself based on the similarly plotted "Blow Up"), this is a satisfying techo-conspiracy thriller. Vastly more intelligent when compared with the testosterone-laced pedigree for which Bruckheimer and Scott are famous (with films such as "Armageddon" and "Con Air" being produced by the former and "Crimson Tide" and "Top Gun" being directed by the latter), the film does contain a smattering of such revved up action.

    For the most part, however, the filmmakers are apparently more concerned with delivering a thinking person's thriller than a mindless, "smash-bang" action flick, and in that respect, they've admirably succeeded (unless you're looking for another brain dead film like "Armageddon"). In that regard, the use of advanced technology for domestic spying is effectively used and comes off as fun and somewhat spooky (considering what may be possible now or in the near future).

    As such, the film's coolest effect uses that frozen panning technique (popularized in the "swing" Gap commercial) to zip around Smith's paused character viewed on a surveillance videotape. Although it defies logical physics unless the lingerie shop has many surveillance cameras all trained on the exact same area, it's still a neat visual effect.

    All in all, and while Will Smith's recent string of box office mega-hits will end with this film -- its R rating will ensure that by limiting the potential audience -- the picture does appear to be a crowd pleaser and our preview audience seemed to enjoy it thoroughly.

    This is despite the fact that at times the film feels as it isn't quite firing on all cylinders. While it does have some thrilling moments -- the first chase scene is well-executed and appropriately taut with suspense -- similar, but later scenes go through the same motions but don't quite burn with the same, and needed, intensity.

    Will Smith ("Men In Black," "Independence Day") -- playing more of the straight man then he's done in his past films -- makes up for that occasional lack of intensity. Although he throws in a few quips here and other smart aleck remarks there, Smith appears to be striving for a transition into more "grown up" roles. More than adequately filling the conspiracy laden shoes of his highly acclaimed predecessors, Smith is quite good in the role of the bewildered lawyer who suddenly finds his world turned upside down.

    In most conspiracy thrillers, part of the "fun" of watching them unfold is trying to figure out the central villain's identity while the protagonist does the same. Scott, working from a screenplay by David Marconi ("The Harvest"), opted to give the audience superior position over Dean, by allowing us to identify the head conspirator right from the start.

    While this occasionally works in some films where the audience worries about the hero unknowingly putting himself in peril by crossing the villain's path, that tactic isn't used here. Instead, Scott and Marconi just get the ball rolling and allow the subordinate henchmen to supply the conflict for the protagonist. Although that works, it's not as effective as having the continuous sparring between the two "heavyweights."

    As that main villain, Jon Voight ("The Rainmaker," "Mission: Impossible") is decent but not outstanding. Like many of his fellow former headlining actors, he's now pretty much relegated to playing the heavy, and while appropriately meanspirited and intense, his shallowly constructed character prevents him from really sinking his teeth into the role.

    Faring better is Gene Hackman ("Crimson Tide," "Unforgiven") as the ex-covert operative and only possible salvation for our bewildered hero. One of the most reliable actors working today, Hackman -- decked out in his 1960's NASA style glasses and other appropriate garb -- delivers a performance different than one probably expects, but he's still quite good in the role.

    Supporting performances are decent, including Lisa Bonet ("Angel Heart," TV's "The Cosby Show") as Dean's former girlfriend and current informant, but it's the bevy of actors -- such as Jake Busey, Jack Black and Jamie Kennedy -- playing the NSA covert operatives and "techies" who provide the film with substance.

    Although the film occasionally feels as if it's running on autopilot and subsequently some of the suspense scenes in the middle don't have quite the "zip" they deserve, overall the movie works quite well and has a fun, well constructed, and audience pleasing ending. While it might not rank up there with the best conspiracy films, it's certainly a solid entry in the genre. We give "Enemy of the State" a 7 out of 10.

    Violence and profanity give this film its R rating. As such, violence is extreme with many people being wounded or killed (mostly in one gun battle scene, although a few other deaths are scattered about the picture) and some of these scenes may be intense to some viewers. Profanity is also extreme with more than 20 "f" words along with an assortment of other words and phrases.

    Beyond that, there's some mostly implied sexual activity between a Congressman and his female aide (seen via a hidden surveillance camera), some scantily clad employees/models in a lingerie shop, and the element of Will Smith's character having had an affair sometime in the recent past.

    As in most conspiracy films, the villains all have extreme cases of bad attitudes, and some younger kids -- if allowed to see this R rated film -- may have to be reassured that the government (hopefully) isn't spying on someone at any given moment.

    Since a good number of kids may want to see this film (largely due to Will Smith), you may want to take a closer look at the content should you still be concerned about its appropriateness.

  • A Congressman makes a comment about not caring "who gets stoned..." while talking with Reynolds.
  • A person seen on a video drinks wine.
  • Some of Pintero's men drink wine.
  • Dean has a glass of wine (that he then spills).
  • We see a man whose face is extremely bruised from a beating (not seen).
  • The street is bloody near a man who's just been hit and killed after being hit by a fire truck.
  • After a mild traffic accident, a man's head is a little bloody.
  • A man's face is bloody after his truck has crashed.
  • A man's hand is very bloody after he's been shot there.
  • After a massive gun battle, Dean finds blood and bloody people all around him.
  • Obviously Reynolds and all of his men have both for killing and preparing to kill anyone with knowledge of sensitive information.
  • Likewise, Pintero and his thugs have both for being involved in organized crime and roughing up people.
  • We learn that Dean had an affair with Rachel before the story begins.
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may also be tense to some viewers.
  • Government hitmen and officials chase a man with sensitive information for several minutes through the city (and are prepared to kill him for it).
  • Government thugs come after Dean in a hotel in another suspenseful scene that includes him being in a small janitor's closet that's on fire.
  • The thugs also chase Dean through a traffic tunnel.
  • They then show up at Brill's hideout and come after him and Dean, and then must try to get out before the building blows up.
  • Some guys repeatedly crash their truck into Brill's car (that then catches on fire) as they chase after them.
  • Two groups of men get into a standoff with their guns aimed at each other.
  • Handguns/Shotgun/Explosives/Needle (filled with unknown substance): Used to threaten, wound, or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Bangs" (sexual), "Beats off" (masturbate), "Piece of sh*t," "Holy sh*t," "Cut the crap," "Guidos" (for Italians), "Chicks" (women), "Gas bag," "Shut up," "Screwed" (nonsexual), "Moron," "Pain in the ass," "Ugly ass," and "Schmuck."
  • A man gives a surveillance team "the finger."
  • We see that some government thugs who ransacked Dean's home also spray painted his wife's small dog.
  • To set off a hotel fire alarm, Dean starts a fire in a small janitor's closet.
  • None.
  • A moderate amount of action-oriented suspense music occurs during the film.
  • None.
  • At least 24 "f" words (1 used with "mother"), 28 "s" words, 1 term using male genitals ("c*cksuck"), 10 asses (3 used with "hole"), 7 hells, 6 damns, 5 S.O.B.'s, 1 crap, and 10 uses of "G-damn," 3 uses of "Jesus," 2 uses each of "Jesus Christ," Oh my God" and "For Christ's sakes" and 1 use each of "Oh Jesus," "God," "Oh Christ," "Swear to God" and "For God's sakes" as exclamations.
  • Brill mouths "F*ck you" to Dean.
  • A Congressman makes a comment about not caring "who bangs who..." while talking with Reynolds.
  • As Dean goes to a lingerie store to buy a Christmas gift for his wife, we see several store employees/models walking around in lingerie (and showing some cleavage and part of their bare butts in thong-like bottoms). Dean then comments that he's not experienced doing this (buying lingerie) and then embarrassedly amends that by stating that he is experienced, but in a different way.
  • After some government officials ask if Dean was in that lingerie shop to buy something for his wife, he jokingly says that he likes to cross dress and that "You'd be surprised by how a pair of edible panties can make a guy feel sexy."
  • Upset about his bosses' questioning his private matters, Dean fires back at them, "Do you ever beat off in the shower?" and then asks if they've ever had any homosexual thoughts.
  • We briefly see Carla in her bra and panties.
  • Played for laughs, a foreign tourist gets excited and pulls out some money when Dean starts to strip off his clothes (to get rid of any "bugs") in her hotel room (but, of course, nothing happens).
  • Brill and Dean watch fuzzy, black and white surveillance footage that shows a Congressman and his "aide" in a hotel room. She strips down to her bra and panties, works on his pants while sitting on the bed and then puts her head down to his crotch (implying oral sex -- but it's very brief).
  • When Dean jokingly (but suggestively) tells his wife that they have lots of "monitoring" to do and she agrees, their son asks, "Are you talking about sex?"
  • Some of Pintero's men smoke.
  • Dean's wife kicks him out of the house after she thinks he's having an affair (again) with Rachel, and later, their son asks him if they're getting a divorce (he says they aren't).
  • Whether the government has the capability to spy on average people in the ways portrayed in the film.
  • The issue of Dean's affair with Rachel (that occurred before the story begins but is brought up during it).
  • One of Reynolds' men grabs a Congressman, inserts a needle into his neck (that knocks the man out), and puts him into his car that he then allows to roll into a body of water and sink, thus killing the man.
  • During the opening credit montage, we see several instances of people hitting others, shooting guns, being hit by cars, cars crashing into each other, etc... in brief bits from surveillance footage.
  • We see a man whose face is extremely bruised from a beating (not seen).
  • Pintero threatens to kill Dean if he doesn't tell him from whom he received an incriminating videotape.
  • A man is hit by a fire truck and killed.
  • Government thugs ransack Dean's home.
  • After some vehicles crash into each other, a man with Dean fires a gunshot at him, but misses.
  • Brill holds his gun on Dean and then knocks him to the ground to check for "bugs."
  • Dean fires a gunshot at some government thugs in a car chasing after him.
  • Dean finds a woman who's been murdered.
  • A tremendous explosion levels a building and presumably kills several government thugs.
  • Some guys crash their truck into Brill's car. Dean then shoots a shotgun at the truck causing it to wreck (and injure or kill the men inside).
  • Brill punches Dean who then momentarily holds a shotgun on him.
  • A government thug knocks out Dean with a punch to the face.
  • A man shoots another man in his hand.
  • A massive gun battle erupts between two groups of men, ending in many of them dead and the others injured.

  • Reviewed November 12, 1998 / Posted on November 20, 1998

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