Enemy of the State (1998) starring Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King directed by Tony Scott Movie Review

Enemy of the State (1998)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Will Smith as Robert Clayton Dean in Enemy of the State

Scott does Hitchcock

If ever a movie was the perfect vehicle for a star it was "Enemy of the State" for Will Smith. This action, thriller allowed Smith to not only deliver action and comedy but also moments of drama as well. Add to this the direction of Tony Scott who keeps things moving at such a brilliant pace that you just enjoy this action thriller with out caring that the story itself is far fetched.

When Congressman Phillip Hammersley (Jason Robards) is murdered by politician Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voight - The Rainmaker) a video of the murder ends up in the possession of Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith - Men in Black), a lawyer who is dealing with trouble between a mob boss and a union. Suddenly Dean's life is ripped to pieces as lies about an affair destroy his marriage, his home is ransacked and he loses his job. And it also appears that someone wants him dead as he is chased through the city by a group of NSA agents. With no idea of what is going on or why someone wants him dead be gets in touch with mysterious contact Lyle (Gene Hackman - Absolute Power) who begrudgingly helps him to work out what these people want and then deal with them before they kill them both.

Gene Hackman as Edward Lyle in Enemy of the State

As storylines go "Enemy of the State" is one of those far fetched thrillers which plant a seed of thought in your head that maybe just maybe it's not outrageous as it seems. What I mean is that whilst you can believe that a politician is murdered, the murderer is caught on camera and a dodgy NSA team hunt down an innocent man who is unwittingly in possession of the recording, the lengths they go and the technology they use borders on the outrageous but just maybe not too outrageous. So watching the team track Robert across the city with the use of satellite technology, bugs and use computers to magic images out of thin air is over the top you occasionally find yourself thinking well maybe some of it's not that unbelievable, maybe they can ruin someone's life by blocking there credit cards and planting lies about them.

And to be honest that is a big part of what "Enemy of the State" is about, the possibility that it is not as far fetched as it seems. As such the actual storyline of Robert forced to go on the run and then try and clear his name actually ends up playing second fiddle. And to be honest this basic storyline is not that original with the same basic innocent man story have been used frequently through out the course of cinema's history and often by Alfred Hitchcock.

But because of this, because director Tony Scott basically has fun and focuses on the possibility that maybe it's not to outrageous whilst delivering one adrenalin fuelled scene after another it works. The initial chase scene which sees the NSA team going after a man called Daniel in a frantic chase across roof tops, through buildings and on to the streets is exciting. And with every chase scene which comes after it gets more and more exciting be it Robert trying to evade capture in a hotel to a brilliant car chase as he and Lyle try to evade capture. All of these are exciting but fun and often a bit comical with Will Smith's wise cracking working perfectly with the outrageous aspects of the story.

Talking of Will Smith, well it is because he is absolutely perfect for the role of the innocent Robert Clayton Dean that "Enemy of the State" really works. As already mentioned there is opportunity for Smith to show his talent for comedy and there is plenty of smart dialogue but there is also plenty of action and Smith certainly looks at home when he is being chased through buildings. But on top of this there are moments which allow him to show that he can do drama as well and scenes where his life is ripped apart and those close to him really allow Smith to show an emotional depth to his character, not out of place or forced emotion but moments which break the fast paced action perfectly.

But Will Smith is not alone in delivering a good performance as Gene Hackman is brilliant as the cantankerous Lyle, the former agent who ends up assisting Dean. And Jon Voight is believable as a villainous politician intent on gaining power whilst Regina King adds some humour as Dean's wife. And to be honest it easy to go on because there are a lot of recognizable faces in "Enemy of the State" be it Jack Black and Seth Green or Jason Lee as the man who actually takes the video of the politician being murdered.

What this all boils down to is that "Enemy of the State" is a fun, action packed thriller which really comes into its own because the casting of Will Smith is perfect. It is unbelievable, it's not the most tense thriller going but if you like fast paced action mixed with some humour and a question that maybe it's not as outrageous as it seems and you will love "Enemy of the State".