Sunday, December 13, 2009

Enemy of the State

Day 347 - 12/13/09 - Movie #347

BEFORE: Alex, I'll take spy movies for $400...

THE PLOT: A lawyer becomes a target by a corrupt politician and his NSA goons when he accidentally receives key evidence to a serious politically motivated crime.

AFTER: Will Smith plays Robert Dean, a well-intentioned lawyer whose friend accidentally records the murder of a U.S. senator by shady government forces, led by a guy named Reynolds (Jon Voight). Dean's friend (Jason Lee) slips him the disk while being pursued by government agents, and then he himself becomes a target of NSA surveillance, framed for adultery, shot at, and pretty much put through the wringer until he surrenders the evidence. He hooks up with "Brill", (Gene Hackman), who's an ex-NSA man himself, and together they try to clear his name and monkey with the government agents.

What's most amazing is the fact that this movie was made before 9/11, before the Patriot Act, and before President Cheney was even in office - so it's pretty uncanny to see that someone predicted government wiretapping, phone surveillance, and all the trampling of the little guy's rights that came along with it...

There's a lot of cool technology in play, like satellites and hidden cameras, and cel phone recording, and I wish I could say that it all adds up to a coherent whole, but I'm just not sure that it does. Similarly, there are a lot of cool actors who play bit parts in the NSA unit, like Jake Busey, Seth Green, Jack Black, Barry Pepper, Jamie Kennedy and Ian Hart - and I think that if they had cut down on the number of actors, maybe combined a few roles to make one "tech expert", this might have worked better. Does it really take TWO cool slacker guys to tell us what the satellite camera can see, each time it gets used?

I've got a few other nits to pick, too. There are 100 senators, so if the surveillance bill isn't likely to pass, does that mean that killing ONE senator is going to make a difference? What are you going to do, keep killing senators until you get 51 of them to will support your bill? And then there's the climax of the film, where Dean decides that it's a good idea to put the NSA men who want to kill him in the same room with the mob bigwig who wants to kill him, and just sort of hope that a wacky misunderstanding between them will save his behind... And what was your back-up plan if that didn't work?

Also with cameos from Jason Robards, Gabriel Byrne, Tom Sizemore, James LeGros, Dan Butler and Philip Baker Hall. That's a lot of talent wasted in tiny roles for one film...

RATING: 5 out of 10 smoke detectors

1 comment:

  1. First, you gotcher Hackman Factor going on. It's got Gene Hackman in it. By definition, it can't be a bad movie.

    Secondly, it's that peculiar kind of movie I really enjoy: the "undeclared sequel" to another film. It's hard not to picture Hackman's character as Harry Caul (his character from "The Conversation"), twenty years after the events of that film.