Enemy of the State

  • Review Date: May 7, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 132 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Late-'90s action movie has frequent profanity, violence.
  • Review Date: May 7, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 132 minutes

Age(i)

2
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4
5
6
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8
9
10
11
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15
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While the movie is filled with messages on the scope and reach of surveillance in our society, the primary focus is the action itself.

Positive role models

While an argument could be made that at least two of these characters are resisting the intrusiveness of the surveillance society as manifested by the NSA, these characters are also action-movie archetypes straight out of the Jerry Bruckheimer school of late '90s formulaic blockbuster movies.

Violence

Frequent action-movie violence. A man on a bike is shown being killed by riding in front of a fire truck. During the opening credits, a series of car crashes are shown overhead. A woman is found dead in her bathroom from an apparent suicide. Frequent explosions and gunfire. A man gets shot in the head. Characters shoot at each other from point-blank range, resulting in numerous deaths.

Sex

A Congressman is spied on in his hotel room receiving oral sex from a woman; while no body parts are shown, the motions and gestures make it obvious what is happening. After being asked questions about an extramarital affair he has had by his employers, the lead character asks one of them if he masturbates in the shower. During a scene in a lingerie store, a female employee dressed in lingerie asks the lead character for the breast size of his wife. His wife is later shown in the lingerie as they begin to flirt in a provocative manner. When the lead character and his wife make insinuations about having sex, their young son asks, "Are you guys talking about sex?"

Language

Frequent profanity. The f-word is used on a regular basis. Members of the mafia refer to an African-American lawyer as an "eggplant." Italian-Americans are referred to as "guidos."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Pills are placed around a politician's head to look like a suicide after he is murdered.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Enemy of the State is a 1998 action movie with frequent profanity, action-style violence, and sexual content, including references to oral sex and infidelity. While the movie does show the machinations of a pre-9/11 government agency determined to a ruin the life and credibility of a man in possession of filmed evidence of spies killing a Congressman, the primary focus is on the nonstop action. There are also racial slurs: an African-American lawyer is referred to as an "eggplant," and Italian-American mobsters are called "guidos." 

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Kids say

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What's the story?

Will Smith stars as Bobby Dean, a successful Washington lawyer. An old acquaintance of Dean, on the run from the NSA, drops a computer disk into Dean's Christmas packages just before he is killed. Dean does not know that he has the disk, much less that the disk proves that CIA operatives killed a Congressman (an unbilled Jason Robards) because he opposed their plans to expand surveillance. Dean quickly becomes a target of the NSA, whose agents break into his house and vandalize his belongings, freeze his bank account and credit cards, and send pictures of him with a woman he had once had an affair with to his wife and employer. On the run from the NSA, Dean meets Edward Lyle (Gene Hackman), a former NSA surveillance agent who is now "off the grid" and trying to destabilize the intrusiveness on civil liberties that the NSA has undertaken. Lyle reluctantly agrees to help Dean get his life back, and together they turn the tables on the NSA, using their own weapons against them.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

ENEMY OF THE STATE attempts to be both an action movie in the typical bombastic overblown Jerry Bruckheimer style of the late 1990s, as well as a movie conveying a message on the depth and breadth of the surveillance state and the damage it can inflict on American citizens believed to be "national security threats." While the movie does an effective job of debating the pros and cons of expanded surveillance (and this is three years before 9/11), and shows the extent top-secret government agencies can infiltrate one's privacy, the movie is still a slightly dated action movie.

It isn't a bad action movie, but it does adhere to the typical action movie structure, despite the messages and debate about a very important topic throughout the movie. The blockbuster production values firmly place this film in the late '90s, but the acting from Will Smith, Jon Voight, Gene Hackman, and the rest of the mostly all-star cast keeps the action sequences from veering into action-movie cliches. Overall, this movie should inspire active discussion from mature teens.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the issues raised by balancing the right to privacy with the need for protection. How does this movie convey this message?

  • How does the movie attempt to balance its message of showing the extent and scope of the surveillance state with the need to be an entertaining action movie?

  • Do you think this movie would have been much different if it had come out after 9/11? Why or why not?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 20, 1998
DVD release date:June 15, 1999
Cast:Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Will Smith
Director:Tony Scott
Studio:Touchstone Pictures
Genre:Thriller
Topics:Adventures
Run time:132 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and violence

This review of Enemy of the State was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byAshnak April 9, 2008
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Great Thriller Action Movie

This movie is great for someone with an appreation and understanding of the government. Will Smith is great in this movie.
Adult Written byjohnstj2 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 
Teen, 13 years old Written byLuB April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

pretty good

i was very suprised when my mom was watching this movie ans she said cmon and watch this with me. bu i did i can handle violence but they sad f--k atleast 10 or 15 times. this should have no doubt been rated r

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