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ENEMY OF THE STATE ($30) is a stylish and highly entertaining exercise in Hollywood style paranoia. The message of this movie is that big brother is already watching you, even if you don't know it. Spy satellites in orbit can zoom in on match head being lit on the ground, so you know for sure that there isn't a human being on the street that can escape their gaze. The technology comes into play in this techno-thriller when an innocent man comes under the harsh scrutiny of the NSA. ENEMY OF THE STATE stars Will Smith as Robert Clayton Dean, a Washington, D.C. attorney that specializes in labor disputes. One day while shopping for a Christmas present for his wife, Dean encounters an old college acquaintance that slips something in his packages without his knowledge. Unfortunately, the item turns out to be a video recording that shows a certain NSA bigwig assassinating a US senator. Dean doesn't know he has the item in question and when his life begins being turned upside down, he thinks that it is Mafia retaliation over a labor dispute he is working on. What started out as minor annoyances to discredit him, escalate to the point that Dean loses his job, his wife throws him out of the house and he finds that all of his credit cards have been cancelled. However, thing get even more serious when Dean contacts an elusive private investigator for help, only to discover that the NSA, not the Mafia, is after him.

ENEMY OF THE STATE also stars Gene Hackman as Brill, the private investigator who knows what Dean is facing, since he was once a NSA operative. It seems that Brill was forced into "retirement" years ago when a mission went bad, and has been doing some serious cloak and dagger surveillance work ever since. When they first meet, Brill doesn't want anything to do with Dean, since it may alert the NSA to his presence. Unfortunately, Brill finds himself forced into action when the NSA's tactics cut a little too close to home. Those familiar with THE CONVERSATION, may find Hackman's performance and appearance very reminiscent of the character he portrayed in that classic film. The cast of ENEMY OF THE STATE also features Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King, Tom Sizemore, Jake Busey, Gabriel Byrne, Jamie Kennedy, Seth Green and Jason Robards. Director Tony Scott has done a fantastic job with both pacing and camera work. ENEMY OF THE STATE is like a flurry of continuous motion that keeps the viewer strapped to their seat for the film's entire running time. Scott keeps ENEMY OF THE STATE from turning into a standard political thriller by piling high-octane action entertainment values on top of a paint-by-numbers plot.

Touchstone Home Video has done a very good job transcribing ENEMY OF THE STATE to DVD. However, this very good disc misses its chance of being an outstanding DVD, because it lacks the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement. Sure, this Letterboxed transfer will look excellent on a 4:3 display. However, anyone blowing the DVD's 2.35:1 image up to fit a wide screen monitor is going to be disappointed by the lower resolution of this unenhanced DVD. Getting back to watching this DVD on a 4:3 display, the transfer is very sharp and highly detailed. Blacks are very deep and the image offers terrific contrast across the films various and sometimes difficult lighting situations. Shadow detail is also very good. Color reproduction is right on the money, with very natural looking flesh tones and solid saturation. Neither chroma noise or digital compression artifacts offered any serious concerns on this well authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack kicks some serious you know what. Anyone who enjoys a potent action movie mix is going to be suitably impressed with this DVD. The soundtrack has a very wide forward soundstage that effortlessly wraps around the viewer into the surround channels to create a seamless sound field. There is a great deal of activity in the split surrounds, as well as in the rest of the mix. Sound effects pan and whiz past the viewer in a dizzying effect that complements the films hyper-kinetic visuals. Dialogue reproduction is very clean and never buried under the rest of the mix. Now, what would an action movie be without explosions and gunfire? Well, this track doesn't have a problem in reproducing the full-bodied bass requirements of those two key elements. A French language track has also been encoded onto the DVD, along with English subtitles.

The interactive menus are simplistic, but provide the required scene and language selection features. One can also gain access to two production featurettes and a theatrical trailer through the menu system.






DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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