peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 07 18 EnemyOftheState

Enemy of the State (1998)

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A Gene Hackman and Gabriel Byrne jag from recent things. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott pulled a top-shelf cast: Jason Robards, Anna Gunn (Skyler from Breaking Bad), Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King, Barry Pepper, Jack Black, Philip Baker Hall, Tom Sizemore (Scagnetti in Natural Born Killers) and so on. As a high-priced labour lawyer, Will Smith delivers a lot of humour flat, deadpan, and some of it is very funny. It's quite lengthy.

The plot essentially updates the themes of The Conversation to 1998, when misgivings about government surveillance hadn't yet yielded to national security concerns and omnipresent corporate intermediation. The canonical scene in the park (originally involving Chef-from-Apocalypse Now Frederic Forrest) is cloned, and I took the detonation of Coppola's set to be a metaphor for what happened to Hollywood since 1974. All marriages shown have the women deeply distrustful of their men, very ready to believe the worst. The plot is often too holey but the framing mob/union/labour lawyer relationship provides a satisfyingly ridiculous ending. The cat survives! There is far too much frenetic camerawork.

Roger Ebert: three stars. Voigt adopted Robert S. McNamara's style. Janet Maslin: Will Smith's first real starring role. Vacuous but so much better than what Michael Bay was doing at the time. And yes, just what was Gabriel Byrne's angle?