Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 7/2/99
Enemy of the State
1998 (1999) Touchstone
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A+/C+
Specs and Features
132 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, RSDL
dual layered (layer switch at 1:16:43 in chapter 18), Amaray keep
case packaging, two "behind-the-scenes" production
featurettes, theatrical trailer, preview trailers for The
and Con Air, film-themed
menus, scene access (29 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and
French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned
Robert Dean (Will
Smith) is a young and ambitious labor attorney in Washington DC, who
seems to have a strange knack for pissing the wrong people off.
First, he tries to bully a local crime boss into laying off his
clients, with a little old-fashioned blackmail, courtesy of an
incriminating videotape. The video was taken by a mysterious
operative, that Dean hired through an old flame, and the crime boss
(played by Tom Sizemore) is none too pleased. Then, Dean has the
misfortune of bumping into an old friend from college, who is killed
minutes later. Suddenly, Dean's life begins turning upside-down. His
credit cards don't work, a false story appears in the paper that
results in him losing his job, his wife is made to think he had an
affair - you name it. Dean thinks it's the crime boss trying to get
back at him... but he's way off the mark.
As it turns out, a rogue NSA chief named Reynolds (Jon Voight) has
murdered an influential Senator, because he wouldn't support
legislation that would allow the government to spy on anyone, for
any reason, in the name of national security. Dean's friend
accidentally captured the murder on videotape, and Reynolds and his
men think Dean was passed the tape. Now, they will stop at nothing,
using every form of high tech surveillance at their disposal, to
find Dean and get the tape. And with his life falling apart, Dean
has only one place to turn: the aforementioned, mysterious
operative, known only as Brill.
Have you ever wondered what that camera in the parking lot was
hooked up to, and who was watching it? Do believe that our spy
satellites can read the headlines on a newspaper from orbit? Have
you ever wondered just how far the government could and would invade
your privacy in the name of national security? Well if your name
isn't Richard Jewell, then you're probably just a touch paranoid.
You remember Richard, right? The poor guy who was wrongly accused of
the Atlanta Olympic park bombing, and had his life turned upside
down by the FBI? As they say in the movies, it isn't paranoia if
they're really out to get you.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott have teamed up
once again, and definitely deliver the goods, in this fast-paced,
plugged-in, and surprisingly effective action/thriller. Enemy
of the State is frenetic and edgy, featuring some great
twists and turns, and a first rate cast. Will Smith is as good as
ever here - likable and completely believable. It's one of his best
roles so far. Few actors play a trench-coat heavy as well as Voight.
And Gene Hackman shines in a performance that gives a clever nod to
his earlier role in Francis Ford Coppola's The
Conversation. This film is all-around spooky good fun.
The video quality on this DVD is generally good, in letterboxed
widescreen, but the lack of anamorphic enhancement is extremely
disappointing. This would have been an obvious film on which to use
DVD's 16x9 feature, with its big action, and fast-paced visuals. The
print used for the transfer is a tiny bit grainy, but it's otherwise
excellent. Sadly, a lot of edge-enhancement was used here - this
definitely isn't a high definition transfer. Look at the shimmering
on Sizemore's forehead in chapter 5 - that's edge enhancement at its
finest. In fact, this transfer reminds me a lot of the one done on
another great Tony Scott flick on DVD, Crimson
Tide - remember all the shimmering on foreheads in that
one? A proper high-def transfer would have greatly improved the look
of the DVDs in both cases. What we get instead is a picture that
looks crispy, but not quite sharp. Aside from that, there are great
deep blacks here - the Scott boys do love watering down the streets
for that sexy look, and muted, high-contrast lighting (and I say,
God bless them for it). Contrast is excellent, and the colors are
very solid, if somewhat subdued. All in all, it's very good, but
could have been so much better.
The audio is the real star of this DVD. The Dolby Digital 5.1
surround sound mix is excellent, with lots of nifty panning, rear
channel effects, and deep, throbbing bass. The mix is thunderous,
with well placed dialogue, and pulse-pounding, if uninspired, music.
All in all, this is an great audio experience, that really draws you
into the movie - it's almost as nifty as the sound on the DVD
version of The Rock. And it
gives your sound system a definite workout.
Once again, the extras leave a little to be desired. The DVD menus
are pretty lifeless, considering all of the fun, computer-readout
animations and nifty sound twists that could have been used to
introduce this disc. The disc includes a pair of short, "behind-the-scenes"
featurettes, the original theatrical trailer, and a trio of preview
trailers for other Buena Vista action DVDs the studio figures you
might like. Blah. I don't even want to think about all of the cool
things that could have been done on this disc. Let's just say that
the studio is currently trying to crank out as many cookie-cutter
DVDs as it can, and it shows.
Enemy of the State is one of
those movies that sort of gets under your skin. It's extremely
effective, well-directed and acted, and it suspends your disbelief
just enough so that you can buy into the plot, but doesn't ask you
to buy so much that you just shake your head and groan. I'll take a
clever film like this over contrived, garbage-on-steroids like Armageddon
any day. And while the DVD isn't nearly as good as it could (or
should) be, it is good enough to get the job done. How's that for a