A competent if underwhelming thriller, Tony Scott's Enemy Of The State stars Will Smith as a man who discovers a deadly secret and is forced to go on the run to prove his innocence and expose a far-reaching conspiracy after being blackmailed by the powers that be. With that familiar machinery in place, Enemy Of The State, like its hero, has to look for new, unfamiliar places to go. How the film avoids repeating its predecessors isn't particularly inspired: Like every other movie in which the hero is wrongfully accused (except possibly the film Wrongfully Accused), State has Smith continually trying to outwit his foe, in this case the increasingly jowly Jon Voight. But instead of simply alternating between scenes of Smith on the lam and scenes of Voight masterminding his downfall, State throws in scenes of techno-nerds (including Jack Black and Seth Green) tracking his progress with a bunch of high-tech surveillance equipment. But what Hollywood still hasn't learned is that scenes of geeks pecking away at keyboards and nervously barking lines like, "We've lost audio on number two! He's out of our line of sight!" are seldom thrilling, no matter how much flashy editing is brought into play. Scott's film doesn't understand that repeating ad nauseam the chilling satellite-surveillance scene from the otherwise un-chilling Patriot Games doesn't multiply its effect. After taking forever to get started, bogged down by implausible plot twists and the burdensome presence of forgotten '80s icon Lisa Bonet, Enemy Of The State picks up considerably in its second half, when the second-billed Hackman finally arrives and shit starts blowing up. Hackman, who visited the same paranoid territory in Francis Ford Coppola's considerably less grating The Conversation, is a pleasure as a burned-out ex-National Security Agency operative. The buffering presence of some always-engaging character actors (Gabriel Byrne, Jake Busey, Jason Robards) and the likable Smith helps. But as yet another attempt to exploit paranoid pre-millennial tension—or, depending on how you look at it, another scathing, Hollywood-financed exposé of an American government riddled with shadowy conspirators—Enemy Of The State doesn't really bring anything new to the table.
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