In order to foil an extortion plot, an FBI agent undergoes a facial transplant surgery and assumes the identity and physical appearance of a terrorist, but the plan turns from bad to worse when the same terrorist impersonates the FBI agent.
Robert Dean is a mild-mannered lawyer who works in Washington D.C. He is on the trail of a kingpin named Pintero. Meanwhile, a politician named Thomas Reynolds is negotiating with Congressman Phillip Hammersley about a new surveillance system with satellites. But, Hammersley declines; Reynolds has Hammersley killed, but the murder is caught on tape, and the taper is chased by Reynolds' team of NSA agents. The guy must ditch the tape, so he plants it on Dean (unbeknownst to Dean). Then, the NSA decides to get into Dean's life. That is when Dean's life began to fall apart all around him, with his wife and job both gone. Dean wants to find out what is going on. Then, he meets a man named "Brill" who tells him that Dean has something that the government wants. Dean and Brill formulate a plan to get Dean's life back and turn the tables on Reynolds. Written by
Sucessful lawyer Robert Dean is passed information by an old friend without noticing. Seconds later that friend is killed and Dean is targeted by a group within the Government who wish to cover up a conspiracy involving the murder of a congressman. With the Government's full weight of surveillance equipment brought to bear Dean turns to ex-NSA agent Brill to help protect him, find the information and get it out into the open.
This is much better than the ususal summer crash, bang, wallop stuff we usually get fed. It's greatly helped by the sense of paranonia that runs through the whole story from the Government's power and corruption at some levels. The film starts well, with 'everyman' Dean being drawn into a game of cat and mouse, framed for a crime he didn't commit and forced to go on the run from Government agents. Will Smith carries the film only so far but it realy gets interesting when Hackman turns up as Brill. He casts light on the ability of the government and is almost able to play them at their own game. Brill makes an appearance when the film starts to become too much of a staight chase movie.
To me the use of Hackman as Brill is the best bit of casting ever and makes this film stand out as being clever. In the 70's Hackman played a surveillance expert in Copolla's The Conversation. The film ends with Hackman being monitored himself, with him ripping his house apart looking for the bugs. What makes his casting as Brill so good is that Brill is where Hackman's "The Conversation" character would be 20 years on - it feels like it's the same character again. The director also deserves a lot of praise - he manages to keep the pace up throughout the film, whether it be scenes of chasing action or technological pursuit. The script helps as well - the conspiracy and the paranoia is strong throughout.
Smith is good in the lead, but he isn't quite as good an "everyman" as classic actors as Cary Grant or James Stewart were. Smith also struggles to carry the whole movie and the chases do get a bit samey after a while. Fortunately Hackman is brilliant as Brill, he is a classy actor and brings a lot of weight to the film just as Smith begins to feel the strain. Jon Voight is also good as the villian of the piece. The supporting cast is deep! There were so many famous faces in small roles that I really felt this was an allstar cast, despite the fact that it's a Smith vehicle. Gabriel Byrne makes a fleeting appearance, Ian Hart is there, Jake Busey (son of Gary) shows up, Jason Lee (actor in many Kevin Smith films) witnesses the murder, a gorgeous Lisa Bonet has a small part, James Le Gros, Regina King etc etc. The cast is well packed with famous faces - they don't all get the chance to put on a show but it adds quality at all levels.
Overall this is a fancy chase movie, but good direction, a strong and deep cast and a fantastic Hackman all make this film much better than it could have been. The last scene of the film is a little too upbeat but other than that it's pretty good stuff.
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