National Security (2003)
Main cast: Steve Zahn (Hank Rafferty), Martin Lawrence (Earl Montgomery), Colm Feore (Detective Frank McDuff), Bill Duke (Lieutenant Washington), Eric Roberts (Nash), and Timothy Busfield (Charlie Reed)
Director: Dennis Dugan


There is one very good scene in this tepid and formulaic buddy-action flick, and unfortunately, this scene takes place within the first half-hour of the movie. What is left of National Security is familiar and uninspired fare.

Martin Lawrence plays Earl Montgomery like he plays pretty much all his characters: a loud-mouthed zany maverick trying to hard to be the new Eddie Murphy circa Beverly Hills Cop. The self-professed "one-man-killing SWAT team" unfortunately almost kills his superiors during training, so this LAPD recruit is sent packing without any ceremony. Then, this one-man-killing SWAT team realizes that he has left his keys in his car. While fiddling with his car, he captures the attention of a cop, Hank Rafferty. Earl and Hank soon get into a loud bickering because Earl plays the race card while Hank doesn't know when to back off from a psycho. A bee interrupts their argument, and Hank trying to get the bee away from Earl only result in a TV crew capturing the whole thing on video. The video shows what seems like Hank brutalizing Earl like no tomorrow. Earl's swollen face - bee sting allergy - damns Hank, causing Hank to get involved in a court case with Earl happily testifying against Hank. This whole scenario is a well-crafted satirical set-up that is just inspired. It's too bad that what happens can't measure up to this set-up.

Hank, after spending time in jail, is hired as a security guard at a company that also hires Earl. Both of them stumble upon a crime ring using their workplace for some after-hours fun of murder and mayhem, so they reluctantly band up together to be vigilante superheroes. It's all very predictable. Hank's the stoic one whose jokes are funnier than they actually are because see, he's delivering them with a straight face! Earl is just loud. He is also a dubious character - he happily ruins Hank's life in his self-absorbed thoughtlessness and he behaves like an irritating public nuisance throughout the movie. It is hard to root for a hero whom I want to see silenced permanently.

When I switch off the DVD player, it occurred to me that Martin Lawrence has done a better version of this formulaic buddy action flick in the past, and that's Bad Boys. My advice is to forget this one and go rent Bad Boys instead. Or wait for the sequel coming out soon. National Security is too stale to be worth the time or money.

Rating: 52


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