Every other week Jack Reda, The Script Doctor, tells the powers that be in Hollywood why they should listen to him. You decide if he's right.

Enemy of the State...

This is a movie that had the makings of a very good thriller. It had a good trailer, so I was pretty stoked. With Tony Scott movies, you expect a certain amount of ridiculous bravado, but Enemy… was allstyle and no brain.

Let's start with just one minor nitpicky thing. There is a scene early on where Will Smith is in a lingerie shop in Georgetown. Now, never mind that there is no shop quite like that in Georgetown... there isn't one quite like it anywhere. Don't get me wrong; I have no problems with women walking around in their underwear. On the contrary, it should be mandated in some counties. But the problem is a scene like this takes credibility and chucks it out the window. But okay, let's just say that there is a shop like that. You think it would be possible to break into the back? No way in hell. That place would be like Fort Knox. No Jason Lee Surfer Loser is going to be able to quickly duck into this manner of store from the alley. Not in real life. Not in a movie worth a damn. Sorry. Okay, now on to some real issues...

First of all, the film needs to decide how seriously it wants to be taken. I was under the impression that it wanted to be a badass, realistic, paranoid thriller. If that is the case, then you need to bring an intelligence to the whole project. You can't have a lot of coincidences and silly things like models in their panties simply there to set up a lame joke and show some skin to the teen crowd this is aimed at rather than the adult audience we are pretending to address.

Will Smith's character needs to be more of an everyman, and not his same alien-ass-whipping dude from Independence Day. I know Will is good at it, but he's an actor, right? Somehow I don't see him playing Muhammad Ali and saying things like "Oh, no. no, you are NOT shootin' that green shit at me!". Will Smith did a great job playing Will Smith. But I never believed for a minute that he was worried about his life. Let's at least put some sweat on his brow.

Gene Hackman plays this old government spook from like the 1950's who has been hiding from the government all these years. But wait a minute... if he was such a genius at eluding the Man, would he be wearing the same lame horn rimmed glasses this whole time? Are you kidding? Hello? I submit that a mastermind such as he would have a brilliant disguise. A fantastic wig... a beard... a complete makeover. Not the same retro clothing he has on in the Wanted Photos. Give us a break. This is a guy that is supposed to be smarter than the government stooges that have been after him for decades... but he gets busted on a Convenience Store Camera? How the hell did he elude them for so long? Coma? If the older, wiser character is supposed to be paranoid and crafty, then give him some credit. Hackman's 1955 photos should have looked like Frank Whaley, so that we can be amazed at how much he changed his own physical appearance. Better yet, they should have looked like Will Smith (okay, maybe not that far).

Why did the writer decide that Will Smith's character had to know Jason Lee's character? It didn't bear on the plot at all... and Will sure didn't seem too broken up about watching his old buddy get run down. It would make more sense to just have this stranger (who somehow broke into Victoria's Not-So-Secret) accost him long enough to plant the super evidence. Will wonders what this dude's deal is, but he's capped before he gets a chance. I don't know about you, but if I saw someone I hadn't seen in years get killed before my very eyes, I would feel more than a little strange. Things like this compel you to find out what he was up to these last years... how is his family? Where are my other friends I lost track of... you know, Big Chill stuff. Not in THIS movie. It was like Will saw a bird crap on a car. Interesting, but hardly noteworthy.

Finally, if we're supposed to be worried about the bad guys, then they should seem threatening. What about Jack Black? What the hell is that guy doing playing an NSA agent? Was Tony Scott so bowled over by his performance as the lame weapons genius from The Jackal? Having worked for the government, I know that they would not hire Jack Black in the NSA. No no no. If they did: haircut. Jack Black is good in roles like the one he played in High Fidelity; a goofy guy with no responsibilities. I just don't buy him as the government computer expert. I would be more worried about getting farted on by Jack Black than having him hunt me down with his mad computer skills. Jon Voight, on the other hand is scary looking and menacing by nature, but give him some intelligent dialogue. Make us fear for the good guys.

The whole movie was mediocre from the get-go. Next time, start with the script and not with the cool freeze-pivot special effect.

Jack Reda


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