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ENEMY OF THE STATE
Unrated Extended Cut

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Regina King, Loren Dean, Jake Busey, Barry Pepper, Gabriel Byrne
Director: Tony Scott
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Touchstone
Features: See Review
Length: 140 Minutes
Release Date: May 16, 2006

ďYou have something they want!Ē

ďI DONíT HAVE ANYTHING!Ē

ďMaybe you do and you donít know it.Ē

Film ****

Nothing blows me away me more than a movie that mixes frenetic action and suspense with a superbly thought provoking and ultimately scary plotline. Tony Scott, a master of visuals, made just that sort of movie with the 1998 release Enemy of the State. Iíve never hesitated to call this one of Scottís, as well as producer Jerry Bruckheimerís, best releases to date.

Though the movie is six years old, the central storyline can still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up today. It takes a cinematic and riveting behind the scenes look at perhaps the most dangerous weapon the U.S. government is capable of using; the ability to watch our every move by way of surveillance. It takes this frightening reality and applies to a tremendously well crafted thriller plot, making it the best movie of its kind since Three Days of the Condor.

The movie opens with a heinous act of murder administered by a high-ranking government official named Reynolds (Jon Voight). The murder victim was a U.S. congressman who refused to pass a bill allowing the free use of surveillance by the government at will. But the twist with this matter is that a hidden camera managed to record the entire incident.

We are then introduced to the filmís reluctant hero, Robert Dean (Will Smith), a D.C. labor lawyer. Heís enduring one of the most intense cases of his career as he is about to prosecute a mafia clan accused of assaulting a union worker. But thatís about to be the least of Deanís worries.

While doing some Christmas shopping, an old college friend named Zavitz (Jason Lee), who looks shocked and panicky. It turns out that heís on the run from an army of government agents. Heís being chased for a certain tape he has in his possession. Zavitz, in a moment of desperation, passes this tape secretly into Deanís shopping bag.

It isnít before long that the NSA receives all the information they need about Mr. Deanís life. And Reynolds announces to his staff that he intends to use whatever he can against Dean in order to retrieve the tape. And what methods will the NSA go to in order to get it back? Some pretty frightening tactics involving state of the art surveillance.

By now the movie, already off to a cookiní start, only gets better with each progressing minute. One of the most gripping aspects of the story is the fact that the villains are able to ruin every possible aspect of Deanís life in a heartbeat. The biggest blow to Deanís life are photographs that surface of him talking to a former lover, Rachel Banks (Lisa Bonet), whoís now a business contact. This, of course, doesnít sit well with his wife (Regina King).

And it only gets worse. Dean is fired from his law firm in the wake of several accusations. And before long, Dean realizes that heís been bugged and that someone has been watching his every move. It takes a chance meeting with a mysterious man named Brill (Gene Hackman), to bring this notion to light. At first Brill, an associate of Rachelís, suspects Dean of leading the NSA to his doorstep, but it becomes clear that theyíre after Dean because of something he has, even if he doesnít know it.

In between the tension-filled plot, Enemy of the State contains some of the most intense and involving chase sequences of recent memory. Tony Scott has long been one of our best action movie directors, and he and his technical team have come to play with guns-a-blaziní. The camera work that Scott applies, including even that of numerous shots replicating satellite images, is nothing short of astonishing.

And the movie has a dynamite cast to give the movie even more credit. At the time, Will Smith had yet to do a more serious character. He invests a great deal in his performance, resulting in a pure revelation that would pave the way for his equally dynamic performances in films such as Ali and I, Robot. Gene Hackman is at his intense best as the gruff former operative who reluctantly becomes Deanís ally. And Jon Voight has never been more deliciously despicable as a villain, which is saying something considering how many times heís played one.

Thereís also a popular face in almost every scene. How many movies can include the likes of Jack Black, Jason Lee, Barry Pepper, Jamie Kennedy, Seth Green, Scott Caan, Jake Busey and Gabriel Byrne in key roles? Not many. Even though some of them were rising stars at the time, itís nothing short of awesome to see this line up in a single movie.

Enemy of the State is absolutely gripping from start to finish. Tony Scottís top flight directing, the outstanding cast, and the all around frightening scary storyline add up to make this one of the best action thrillers of the 90s, and in general.

So strap in, enjoy, and most importantly, watch your back, cause you never know if youíre being monitored.

Video ****

Of all the movies to get a proper re-issuing on DVD, Enemy of the State, which got the non-anamorphic treatment for its initial DVD release, is one that I have waited dearly and patiently for. And Iím happy to report that the wait was well worth it. The new anamorphic picture is visual extravagance from beginning to end. Any film directed by Tony Scott guarantees a strong visual style, and it performs in strong, amazing quality in this marvelous presentation. Image quality is strikingly and consistently clear, and the use of color is nothing short of a knockout. A brilliant and stunning re-issue!

Audio ****

Likewise, the 5.1 mix is the stuff that DVD dreams are made of. Scott is a master of frenetic and intense sound in his films, as well, and because the film is a unique technical accomplishment, the sound mix delivers in pure full throttle mode. Everything from dialogue delivery to music playback to the numerous action numbers play out in a purely amazing form. So much so that you may find yourself looking over your back just like the filmís hero.

Features ***

Of the three new Unrated Extended Cut editions to hit DVD from Buena Vista, Iím very happy to see that Enemy of the State, my favorite of the three, has gotten the best treatment both in the features and extended footage. This new cut features 8 minutes of new footage, which really do the movie even more justice. Though I love the movie as it was, it is an even stronger picture as a result of the new footage.

Features-wise, the disc includes a 30 minute making-of featurette, as well as an in-depth look at the making of the filmís climatic showdown (the highpoint of the movie), deleted scenes, and a Theatrical Trailer, as well as several bonus trailers for additional Buena Vista theatrical and DVD releases.

Summary:

Bottom line; if itís a real crackerjack thriller that youíre in dire need of, I canít think of a single better film that will get the job done better than Enemy of the State. Even on a repeat viewing, the film still holds up fantastically. This new Unrated Extended Cut is a knockout that deserves to be added to your collection.

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