Enemy of the State

USA 1998

Film still for Enemy of the State

Reviewed by Kim Newman


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Washington, DC. National Security Agency man Reynolds has his right-hand man murder a congressman who was threatening to veto a bill that would grant the NSA increased powers. By chance, the murder is recorded on a video set up by environmentalist Daniel Zavitz. Reynolds has his team kill Zavitz, although Zavitz manages to plant the tape on Robert Dean, a lawyer whom he meets accidentally. (Dean is unaware he has the tape). Dean is involved in a case against mobster Pintero, whom he plans to incriminate with another tape supplied by Brill, a shadowy surveillance expert who deals with him through Dean's ex-girlfriend Rachel Banks. Reynolds puts Dean under extreme surveillance, has him fired, puts pressure on his marriage and incriminates him on several charges, including Rachel's murder. While fleeing, Dean makes contact with someone he thinks is Brill but who's really an NSA imposter. He's approached by the real Brill, an ex-NSA agent named Edward Lyle. Brill agrees to help Dean.

Dean discovers the video, which is then ruined in an explosion when Reynolds' men home in on Lyle's hideout. After the pair are seized, Dean dupes Reynolds by saying that Pintero has the video. He takes the NSA crew to the mobster's headquarters which he knows is being watched by the FBI. When Reynolds demands the video from Pintero, the gangster assumes he is after the evidence against him. In a shoot-out, Reynolds, Pintero and most of both gangs are wiped out. Dean's life is restored, and Lyle vanishes again.


Surveillance has been the watchword of the paranoia thriller ever since Fritz Lang's The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse (1960) introduced the much-imitated figure of the shadowy mastermind who sits before a bank of monitor, eavesdropping on everyone. The assumptions of the genre - that security agencies are entitled to violate everyone's freedoms in the name of democracy - were first seriously questioned in The Prisoner television series. This brand of conspiracy movie became a commonplace in the Watergate era, from The Anderson Tapes (1971) to Three Days of the Condor (1975), in which it was established that the evil government was spying on everyone. Enemy of the State is a definitive late-90s updating of this style of thriller, its plot serving as a demonstration for all manner of high-tech snooping equipment, from bugs sewn into trouser seams to geostationary satellites 150 miles up.

Crimson Tide (1995), the last Tony Scott-Jerry Bruckheimer-Gene Hackman epic before this, was a retooling of The Bedford Incident (1965) with an unimpeachably ethnic but apolitical hero pitted against an establishment psychopath whose personal misdemeanours did not reflect government policy. In this light, it's no surprise that Enemy of the State balances its scares with the get-out clause that its villain is an NSA rogue, explicitly condemned by his superiors. One of the things the crowded script has no time to establish is the extent to which Reynolds' crew know or care that their quarry is actually an innocent man.

As in Crimson Tide (and unlike, say, The Parallax View, 1974) any implied criticism of the system is mitigated by star power. In other words, the film doesn't say it's terrible that unaccountable men have been given power over ordinary people. Instead, it's only wrong to use all these gimmicks when the victim is someone as all-round decent as Will Smith, whose slightly self-satisfied screen persona is ideally suited to the role of a man slowly stripped of his life and identity. Given Smith's dressiness (he sneers when Hackman tries to get him into a Hawaiian shirt), a frisson is generated by divesting him of his classy threads and forcing him to continue his flight in underwear, later pulling on a decidedly proletarian hooded sweatshirt. The fact that all is put right so cleverly marks it out as a 90s movie. The 70s version would end with Smith's Dean shot dead by an anonymous sniper or reduced to living unnoticed on the streets, with Reynolds smiling smugly as the congressional bill granting him unlimited powers is passed.

Aside from Tony Scott's technically brilliant marshalling of the chase scenes, incorporating surveillance images and the comments of the voyeurs into the breathless action, the chief delight of the film is its clever casting. When Gabriel Byrne appears briefly as the fake Brill, the movie seems as if it will turn into a sequel to The End of Violence, where Byrne played a paranoid observer. But Gene Hackman's appearance as the real Brill/Lyle makes it a continuation of The Conversation (it even uses a still from The Conversation for Lyle's NSA file photo). His appearance feels like the cameo Kevin McCarthy made in the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) or the guest spots found for original cast members in big-budget remakes of cult television shows. He provides a welcome physical link to what went before but is also shuttled off to one side so Smith can carry the whole thing in an uncomplex 90s way.

Hackman's presence resonates with that of Jon Voight and Jason Robards (also early 70s faces), but the cleverest stroke comes in the casting of Reynolds' team, who are played by Generation X faces, mostly familiar from indie films (Ian Hart, Loren Dean, Barry Pepper and so on) with second-generation hard men (Jake Busey, Scott Caan) as the thick-headed muscle. The gossipy callousness of the crew - they steal Dean's prized blender and use it to whip up fruit drinks while watching Dean run from pillar to post - makes them more amusingly hateful than the assassins who populated 70s movies. It also adds an interesting level of generational conflict between those, like Hackman and Smith, who have earned their expertise and those who have simply been raised on computer games and turned loose on the real world.


Jerry Bruckheimer
David Marconi
Director of Photography
Dan Mindel
Chris Lebenzon
Production Designer
Benjamin Fernandez
Trevor Rabin
Harry Gregson-Williams
©Touchstone Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc
Production Companies
Touchstone Pictures presents a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer production in association with Scott Free Productions
Executive Producers
Chad Oman
James W. Skotchdopole
Andrew Z. Davis
Associate Producer
Pat Sandston
Production Co-ordinator
Holly Hagy
Unit Production Manager
Eric McLeod
Location Managers
Janice Polley
Washington DC:
Carol Flaisher
Post-production Co-ordinator
Kristin Parker
Assistant Directors
Artist Robinson
Frederic Roth
Deanna L. Stadler
Charles Simmers
Script Supervisor
Julie Pitkanen
Script Co-ordinator
Karin Anderson
Victoria Thomas
Pat Moran
LA, Associate:
Kim Coleman
LA, Additional:
Aisha Coley
Barbara Harris
Director of Aerial Photography
David B. Nowell
Camera Operators
Martin Schaer
P. Scott Sakamoto
Paul Edwards
Visual Effects Supervisor
James E. Price
Special Visual Effects
Mill Film Ltd (London)
Executive Producer:
Robin Shenfield
Digital Effects Supervisor/Lead Compositor:
Tim Burke
Visual Effects Producer:
Robin Griffin
Digital Effects Producer:
Emma Norton
Visual Effects Co-ordinator:
Diana Stulic
Lead CGI Artists:
Ben White
Tim Zaccheo
CGI Artists:
Kevin Modeste
Chris Shaw
Digital Compositor:
Hani Alyousif
Visual Effects Editor:
John Seymour

Visual Effects Director of Photography:
John Mathieson
Motion Control Cameraman:
Malcolm Wooldridge
Digital Visual Effects
Executive Producer:
Mary Stuart-Welch
Digital Effects Supervisor:
Dion Hatch
Digital Effects Producer:
Laurel Lyn Schulman
Lead Digital Artist:
Todd Mesher
Digital Artists:
Grady Cofer
Naomi Sato
Lawrence Carroll
Brennan Prevatt
Rob Blue
Marty Taylor
Mechanic Effects
Mike Meinardus
Set Foreman:
David Fletcher
Powder Foreman:
Anthony Simonaitis
Robert S. Henderson
Morgan Guynes
Chris Brenczewski
Pat Huggins
Steven B. Wolke
Structural Effects Implosion
Controlled Demolition Incorporated
Asylum Models & Effects Ltd
Graphic Designer
Jason Sweers
Digital Graphics Supervisor
Chris B. Holt
Research/Video Co-ordinator
Vanessa Kirby Bendetti
Computer Graphics
Blackbox Digital Inc
Associate Editors
Joel Negrõn
David Dresher
Art Directors
James J. Murakami
Jennifer A. Davis
Donald B. Woodruff
Set Designers
Peter J. Kelly
Andrew Menzies
Set Decorator
Garrett Lewis
Costume Designer
Marlene Stewart
Costume Supervisor
Christopher B. Lawrence
Key Make-up Artist
Ellen Wong
Make-up Artists
Francisco X. Perez
Make-up Effects
Kevin Yagher Productions, Inc
Danny Valencia
Main Title Design
Garson Yu
uY + Co
Title House
Pacific Title/Mirage
Optical Supervisor
Ladd Lanford
Additional Music
Tim Heintz
Orchestra Conductor
Gordon Goodwin

Bruce Fowler
Gordon Goodwin
Executive in Charge of Music for Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group
Kathy Nelson
Score Co-ordinator
Paul Linford
Music Editor
Bob Badami
Music Programmers
Paul Linford
Steve Jablonski
Score Recordist/Mixer
Steve Kempster
Additional Music Recorder
Rick Norman
"O Come All Ye Faithful" by Margaret Dorn, Linda Lawley, Danny Pelfrey, performed by The Accidentals; "Good King Wenceslas" arranged by Dick Walter; "Trigger Hippie" by Paul Godfrey, Ross Godfrey, Skye Edwards, performed by Morcheeba; "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", "The Twelve Days of Christmas" arranged by Richard Harvey; "Guilty" by Lennox Brown; "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Johnny Marks, performed by Jive Bunny
Sound Design
Christopher Boyes
Shannon Mills
Tom Myers
Sound Mixer
Bill Kaplan
Stage Engineers
John Banuelos
Mike Kaufman
Field Recording
John Fasal
Re-recording Sound Mixers
Kevin O'Connell
Greg P. Russell
Dan Sharp
Grant Schmitz
Supervising Sound Editor
George Watters II
Sound Editors
F. Hudson Miller
R.J. Palmer
Suhail Kafity
Gary Wright
Adam Kopald
Ed Callahan
David Arnold
Supervising Dialogue Editor
Teri E. Dorman
Dialogue Editors
Gloria D'Alessandro
Kimberly Lambert
Rick Canelli
Thomas J. O'Connell
Supervising Editor:
Fred Stafford
Nick Korda
Andrea Horta
Dan O'Connell
John Cucci
Linda Lew
James Ashwill
Supervising Editor:
Pamela Bentkowski
James Likowski
Christine Danelski
Fred Burke
Valerie Davidson
Location Consultant
Marshall Vernet
Technical Advisers
Larry Cox
Harry Humphries
Martin Kaiser
Anthony Pellicano
Steve Uhrig
Chase Brandon
Technical Consultant
Don Ferrarone
Stunt Co-ordinator
Charles Picerni Jr
Animal Wranglers
Studio Animal Services
Aerial Co-ordinator/Helicopter Pilot
Alan Purwin
Helicopter Pilots
Dirk Vahle
Rick Shuster
Will Smith
Robert Clayton Dean, 'Bobby'
Gene Hackman
Edward Lyle, 'Brill'
Jon Voight
Thomas Brian Reynolds
Regina King
Carla Dean
Loren Dean
Agent Hicks
Jake Busey
Barry Pepper
Agent David Pratt
Jason Lee
Daniel Leon Zavitz
Gabriel Byrne
NSA agent, 'Brill'
Jack Black
Jamie Kennedy
Scott Caan
Lisa Bonet
Rachel Banks
Stuart Wilson
Congressman Sam Albert
Laura Cayouette
Christa Hawkins
Ian Hart
NSA Agent Bingham
James Le Gros
Jerry Miller
Dan Butler
Bodhi Pine Elfman
Jacob Chambers
Alexandra Balahoutis
Anna Gunn
Emily Reynolds
Jascha Washington
Eric Dean
Rebecca Silva
Marie, the Clayton's nanny
Bobby Borriello
Dylan, Eric's friend
Carl Mergenthaler
Mike, law firm
Mattias Kraemer
gas station cashier
Lillo Brancato
young worker
John Capodice
older worker 1
Vic Manni
Vic, old mobster
T.R. Richards
Ivana Milavich
Ruby's sales clerk
Patsy Grady Abrams
accident bystander
Beatriz Mayoral
Reynolds' nanny
Kasey Lynn Quinn
Reynolds' daughter
Elizabeth Berman
Donna Scott
Allison Sie
hotel desk clerk
Mike Andolini
Arthur Nascarella
Grant Heslov
John Cenatiempo
young mobster 1
Joyce Flick Wendl
Frank Medrano
Dennis S. Fahey
cop with ambulance
Albert Wong
Mr Wu
Christopher B. Lawrence
John Haynes Walker
Joe Patrick Kelly
Lennox Brown
tunnel maintenance worker
Martin Bosworth
bike messenger
Nancy Yee
Mrs Wu
Troy Anthony Cephers
ANA hotel security
Carlos Gomez
Robert Gersicoff
Arnie Alpert
FBI agents
Greg Collins
FBI supervisor
Doug Roberts
hijacked car driver
Larry King
Warren Olney
Penny Griego
TV anchors
Rhonda Overby
field reporter 1
Eric Keung
David Han
Mambo Kitchen workers
Mandy Kriss
Noel Werking
Sam De Crispino
Wayne A. Larrivey
Mandy Kriss
Lillie Shaw Hamer
Brenna McDonough
field reporters
Callison Slater
Colin Brodie
Daniel Cano
hallway lawyer
Joy Ehrlich
mom in diner
Eric Olson
Thomas Troy
Adam Karkowsky
Steve Uhrig
electronic store employee
Robyn Killian
Laura Eizenia aka Johnson
Angelica Pamintuan
Vené Arcoraci
Charlie Curtis
Raichle Watt
Michael J. Walker
union official
Jackilynn Ward
Pintero's sister
Jason Welch
Joshua Ward
Pintero kids
Pete Sutton
cop at Dean house
Thomas M. Quinn
tunnel technician
Robert O'Rourke
John Allendorfer
Henry Sandler
FBI observers
Chris Holt
Jason Robards
Rep. Philip Hamersly
Seth Green
Philip Baker Hall
Brian Silverberg
Brian Markinson
Mark Blake
Tom Sizemore
Betsy Brantley
FBI agent 1
Paul Herman
Paulie, young mobster 2
Buena Vista International (UK)
11,881 feet
132 minutes
Dolby digital/SDDS/Digital DTS sound
In Colour
Prints by
Anamorphic [Panavision]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011