Bruckheimer is guilty of fronting some of the most stupid movies in existence -- one look at his resume confirms that. Tony Scott is just as guilty (as director) of churning out tripe. They've conspired before, so why would we expect anything worthwhile as a result? We've seen it all before; this is basically "Inner Space" plus the intrigues and strained marriage subplot from "The Firm". Lots of long panning shots...dark, underdeveloped and jerky, as is most of Scott's work.
The problem here is not the moronic plot, or that it's about evil government; in fact, it tries hard to present the facade of being politically neutral. The problem is, the whole thing is laid out for dummies, with absolutely no ambiguity about who's good, who's bad, or what arc each character will follow within the story. In short, who cares? How are we entertained at all by this?
Ah, there's the rub. The supposed entertainment value comes from the illumination of the star power, and hence it's built from the actors up. Everything is designed to play to each celebrity's strength: Smith as a lawyer (so that we perceive him here as royalty), in order to meet Hollywood's affirmative action quotas in casting, yet he's tough and jive when necessary, so as to pass authenticity muster with the audience.
Hackman is the real reason this exists though; huge chunks of "The Conversation" were ripped off in order to make this (with none of the storytelling brains), so that he can give us more of his glum authoritarianism. Whole sections of this obviously try to see and hear the narrative in the same manner as Coppola, but Scott doesn't have a clue.
Most insulting, though, is how the ethnicities are stereotyped. The Chinese couple is depicted as befuddled. The 'Italian-American' depictions involve men slathered with hair grease, leather blazers, wife beater shirts, lots of guns, boiling pasta, and exploding jars of sauce. Sizemore, as the Boss, is flanked by a fat, dutiful wife and fat, cheeky kids.
In order for us to accept Regina King as the wife, she has to be Hollywood's conception of a 'strong black woman' (whatever that is), propped up by her status as an 'ACLU lawyer', yet she is hysterical, jive and sexually compliant -- they couldn't find a dumber actress if they tried.
Is this any match for "No Way Out/The Big Clock"? Comparing leading black men in film, is Smith any match for Denzel Washington, who's done smart things like "Fallen", or for Larry Fishburne, who can support things on the order of magnitude of the entire "Matrix" series by himself?
Nope... all in all, it's the usual collection of deeply insulting, intellectually vacant, preachy, pandering nonsense, that owes its existence purely to the theft of ideas from better predecessors.
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