I distinctly remember being all kinds of confused the first time I sat down to watch Tony Scott's Enemy of the State. The basic plot -- that a successful lawyer unknowingly receives a secret tape that a rogue NSA agent would kill to acquire -- is not the problem. It's once the thing got down to the meat of the matter, the flick got lost in a miasma of techno-chatter and convoluted plot contrivances.
I'm pleased to note that I enjoyed Enemy of the State considerably more upon second visit ... even if I still get a little lost somewhere between Acts II & III.
As previously mentioned, Will Smith plays a rich D.C. lawyer who finds himself on the receiving end of all sorts of mayhem after an desperate old friend drops a top secret videotape into his shopping bag. Thus begins a high-tech chase that boasts plenty of angry agents, narrow escapes, and satellite coordinates.
Taken as (yet another) piece of action-flick escapism, Enemy of the State works fairly well ... even if the pacing is all out of whack once the plot starts cooking. But there's also a canny sense of intelligence working here, as if director Scott and screenwriter David Marconi were hell-bent on tweaking a few political noses throughout the course of their espionage adventure. Indeed, Enemy of the State pleads its case well; sequences involving global satellite recognizance and voice-recording technologies speak to the dwindling sense of privacy we often feel nowadays. (Unless you're Canadian, of course.)
So we're looking at a fairly standard (albeit exceedingly well-directed) spy-type thriller with a few cool action scenes and a plot just interesting enough to command a few hours of your time. But then there's the cast. It's like movie geek heaven.
Will Smith does a fine job as the beleaguered semi-hero, but Enemy of the State really does belong to its ensemble cast. Say what you will about Jerry Bruckheimer's bombastic confections, but this is a producer who knows a good character actor when he sees one. Littered throughout Enemy of the State, hero, villain, or indifferent, are Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Gabriel Byrne, Stuart Wilson, Barry Pepper, Jake Busey, Scott Caan, Seth Green, Jack Black, Tom Sizemore, Loren Dean, Jason Lee, James LeGros, Bodhi Elfman, Jamie Kennedy, Lillo Brancato, Grant Heslov, Philip Baker Hall, and Jason Robards! Damn! Throw in some great ladies like Regina King and Lisa Bonet ... and that's a wrap party I'd kill to attend.
A chase thriller with half a brain is a rare thing indeed, which might help to explain why Enemy of the State has maintained a solid stable of fans since it debuted in 1998. It's slick, sly, frequently funny, and laden with high-tech mega-gizmos that'll make any red-blooded dude say "cooool." Plus it's got some great action moments, just enough energy to jolt you through the exposition deliveries, and a ridiculously colorful cast to keep your eyeballs busy.
Video: Fans of the film will be happy to know that this SE features an anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer, and it looks pretty darn solid. It's got to be an improvement over the previous DVD, which I've never seen, but am told is non-anamorphic.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, with optional English subtitles.
The Making of Enemy of the State (29:06) is a fairly impressive piece of behind-the-scenes material. Tony Scott, Jerry Bruckheimer, Will Smith, Regina King, Gene Hackman, Jamie Kennedy, Lisa Bonet, Jake Busey, Jon Voight, and several spy-tech advisors share some production tidbits. Fans of the flick will enjoy what's offered here, but it's nothing too deep.
All Access: The Showdown (13:19) is a rather extensive look at how Tony Scott managed to kill off six extraneous characters in one crazy shoot-out.
Also included are a pair of deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer, and some sneak peeks for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Grey's Anatomy S1, Glory Road, Annapolis, Crimson Tide: Extended Edition, and Con Air -- yes, the exact Con Air trailer that Disney neglected to include on the, y'know, Con Air Extended Edition.
Regarding the "extra footage," I must apologize and plead ignorance here. Tonight was the first time I've seen Enemy of the State since it played in theaters. Back then the flick ran 131 minutes (including credits); the version on this DVD runs 140. Whether or not this release is worth the upgrade depends on how badly you want the anamorphic transfer and the 7+ minutes of "mystery footage" that I couldn't recognize. (The transfer really is pretty great, though.)