Paranoia about the US government is a time-honored Hollywood tradition that has produced masterworks like THE PARALLAX VIEW, cult films like WINTER KILLS, sturdy thrillers like SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (which this cable production remakes), and assembly-line feather-rufflers like THE ENEMY
WITHIN. Once again, the Pentagon brass and a flock of Benedict Arnolds serve as easy targets so one rugged individualist can save democracy single-handedly.
Career officer Col. MacKenzie Casey (Forest Whitaker) has a hard time shaking off his sneer of cold command when he comes home to his wife Jean (Lisa Summerour) and son Todd (Willie Norwood, Jr.). Meanwhile, President William Foster (Sam Waterston) infuriates militaristic General Lloyd (Jason
Robards) when he announces defense cuts. Casey accesses a gambling pool in Lloyd's computer, but he doesn't realize that Lloyd and Defense Secretary Potter (Josef Sommer) are plotting to force the President's resignation, and that the Pentagon computer carries a top secret code for a domestic
invasion masterminded by them. Upcoming weekend maneuvers will in fact provide a cover for a military coup deploying 100,000 troops. Attempting to embarrass great white liberal Foster out of office, the takeover, financed by millionaire businessmen, heralds a military-backed oligarchy. So
determined are the right-wingers that they murder squeamish Attorney General Art Daniels (Lawrence Pressman) at a crowded party with a chemical agent that causes a heart attack. Secretly coached by KGB operative Jake (George Dzundza), who does not relish a hawklike US regime, Casey outlines the
conspiracy to the skeptical President and Chief of Staff Betsy Corcoran (Dana Delaney) and interrogates the late Daniels's secretary Sarah (Isabel Glasser), a Russian double agent. By planting an incriminating document in Lloyd's files, Casey forestalls the plot to declare the President
incompetent. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, President Foster forcibly retires Lloyd and bides his time before reckoning with Potter, 22 generals, and treacherous Vice President Walter Kelly (Dakin Matthews). Willing to sacrifice his own career by linking himself falsely with the
proposed junta, Casey patriotically ensures the sanctity of the Oval Office.
Two top screenwriters, Darryl (THE LAST DETAIL) Ponsican and Ron (RAIN MAN) Bass, stub their toes on this HBO update of the classic SEVEN DAYS IN MAY. Thrillers about power-lusting politicos and crazed Pentagonians need to scare the bejeezus out of viewers if they are to have any point at all.
Reasonably engrossing, THE ENEMY WITHIN is neither realistically frightening nor far-fetchedly suspenseful. It simply runs its course through the usual red herrings and obfuscatory obstacles; we seem to be one step ahead of Casey as he deciphers the Machiavellian meanings buried in Lloyd's
computer database. Without the Soviets as a Cold War scapegoat, action films have been forced to scramble for villains: multinational terrorists lack the eclat of Soviet bogeymen so the government nogoodnik is a safe standby. But this kind of material requires razor-sharp timing and sweeping
cinematic handling to override the inherent implausibility of the conspiracy scenario. Professional to its finger tips and adroitly acted as it is, THE ENEMY WITHIN's TV movie-of-the-week treatment is prosaic and unstylish. Frittering away precious running time on Casey's domestic shortcomings and
failing to give credibility to Casey's rather quick-sprouting suspicions, the film peters out without a crescendo. (Graphic violence, profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Paranoia about the US government is a time-honored Hollywood tradition that has produced masterworks like THE PARALLAX VIEW, cult films like WINTER KILLS, sturdy thrillers like SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (which this cable production remakes), and assembly-line feat… (more)