Enemy of the State


When producer Don Simpson died of a cocaine overdose we could assume he was feeling paranoid, but frankly we didn't know quite how paranoid he was. On the evidence of Enemy of the State, produced by his erstwhile partner Jerry Bruckheimer as what seems like an homage to Simpson, he had a lot to be paranoid about. I will say one thing about this film: For once the good guys are the ACLU. Let Bruckheimer put his money where his mouth is and make a proper donation. And while he's at it he can put some dough into supporting The Nation magazine, which could really use it.

Bruckheimer, writer David Marconi, and director Tony Scott have put together the most paranoid film about current US government activities that I, for one, have ever seen. Washington, D.C. labor lawyer Will Smith is having plenty of trouble trying to keep the mob out of his union clients' pockets, when an old college acquaintance drops an incriminating tape into his Christmas shopping bag. What's the tape? A birdwatcher's serendipitous video of a murder being committed by a National Security Agency bureaucrat and his high-tech goons.

Quicker than you can say 'fascist police state' the baddies have put six tracking devices into Will's clothes, from his shoes to his pants to his wristwatch, destroyed his credit, implicated him in an adultery, gotten him fired, and destroyed his marriage, all in order to get back the tape. Is that overkill or what? So for the next hour we get to watch Smith and/or his stunt double run, dive, hide, leap from buildings to fire escapes, and some other things I've probably forgotten, trying to get away from a) the NSA cars, vans, and helicopters that follow him; and b) the GPS video satellites that the government has trained on him and can apparently spot him picking his nose from 150 miles up. All of which, if true, may mean that the militias are right to be worried.

In any case, after what seems like a lifetime but is actually only an hour and a half of what I have to acknowledge is extraordinary camerawork and editing, he finally meets up with Gene Hackman, who we know will save the day. Hackman, a recluse and an ex-NSA operative who can outwit his former colleagues at the drop of a hat, as long as it contains a tracking device, takes Smith under his wing because now the bad guys want to get both of them. And by means of a plot device that I still can't figure out, they get all the bad guys, including the labor mob, to confess their sins on tape, then kill each other, and let Will go back to wife and child, and Hackman go to -- well, nobody knows. Maybe to the sequel.