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Enemy of the State

For film buffs, there's something very amusing at the heart of Tony Scott's Enemy of the State (1998) — it's not quite a follow-on to Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 The Conversation, but it could be with a little bit of imagination. Scott lifts at least two scenes from the earlier film, which, like Enemy of the State, also stars Gene Hackman as professional eavesdropper. There, he was Harry Caul. Here, he's "Brill," also known as Edward Lyle. Or is he? He wears heavy-rimmed glasses in both films, and his mugshot from The Conversation is part of his NSA file 25 years later. Call it homage if you like. Or blur your vision just a bit and you could be watching a high-tech sequel to Coppola's understated masterwork. Will Smith stars as Washington D.C.-based attorney Robert Dean, a man who enjoys a lucrative practice and has a nice suburban home with his wife (Carla Dean), his son, and the family dog. But his world is soon shattered when he unwittingly receives a videotape of a U.S. Congressman's murder from an old friend (Jason Lee), which implicates high-placed NSA agent Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voight). Thus, with a small team of rogue operatives — who may or may not know that they are on a black op, and are too smart to ask questions — Reynolds begins to unravel Robert's life, first by destroying his marriage, finances, and professional reputation, and then by going after his college sweetheart Rachel (Lisa Bonet). However, Rachel manages to lead Robert to the one man who can help him understand what's happening to him, and how he's being traced — former NSA technician Brill (Hackman), who went underground nearly two decades earlier and lives an untraceable existence off the grid. Enemy of the State is a solid collaboration between director Tony Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who also delivered Top Gun and Crimson Tide to theaters. As such, it's a near-perfect example of the action genre, balancing the pace of a Hitchcockian wrong-man scenario and double-chase with excellent action sequences. It's also bolstered by its two leads, who create an appealing clash of personalities. Will Smith's undeniable screen charisma carries much of the film, particularly in its opening acts, but the entire affair goes into overdrive when Hackman makes his first appearance, thrusting a pistol into Smith's ribs with nothing more than "Shhh!" as an introduction. And Jon Voight once again proves to be one of Hollywood's most appealing villains, not to mention one of the few mature actors who could serve as an authentic foil for Hackman in a piece like this. Also watch for Jack Black and Seth Green as Voight's tech-support flunkies, who give the film some valuable running commentary. Buena Vista's Enemy of the State arrives on DVD for the second time in an "Unrated Extended Edition," boosting the film's overall run-time by about 10 minutes, mostly with extended scenes and bits of dialogue — the movie never wears out its welcome, and the additional moments don't distract or get in the way. The feature-set includes two documentaries, "The Making of Enemy of the State" (30 min.) and "All Access: The Showdown" (13 min.). Also included are two deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer. The anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) looks flawless, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 will give any sound-system a workout. Keep-case.

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