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National Security

Starring Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn
Screenplay by Jay Scherick & David Ronn
Directed by Dennis Dugan

IN SHORT: Someone should invoke national security of the mind and lock this loser away forever. [Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality.
88 minutes]

We learned, several years ago, not to view comedies in private screening rooms. We also know, if we are not the demographic target of a particular film, that we'd better plant in a room filled with that target, else we'd fail in our avowed mission of reporting on films honestly.

Honestly? Even with an even racial split as to the stars of National Security, 99% of the written gags are aimed at African-Americans. We, not being A-A, got two laughs and a couple of chuckles. While National Security got laughs from its target, the general reaction afterwards labeled the film "stupid" and "terrible" -- and those were the complements from the viewers that liked it. National Security is a movie saddled by sloppy and silly writing. It is a movie which strikes us as falling into the category of "we'll write the stunts first and then fill in the story holes to get us from stunt to stunt to explosion or whatever." Some of those stunts are pretty damned good. The balancing story is such drek that the stunts eclipse anything resembling character or plot development.

Earl Montgomery (Martin Lawrence) is an eager beaver cop wannabe. He's got attitude. He's got mouth. He loves the badge and even more than that, he loves the way the ladies react to a man wearing a badge. He doesn't like the rules. He doesn't follow the rules and he hasn't shown much interest in even learning the rules at the Los Angeles Police Academy, where he is in training. Earl gets bounced out of the Academy for being insane and takes a job as a security officer with a company called National Security. Earl, to be fair, thinks himself a perfect being. Everything bad that happens to him happens because he's black and he's ready to shoot his mouth off about it whenever given the opportunity. Earl, to be honest, is an ass.

Hank Rafferty (Steve Zahn) and his partner Charlie (Timothy Busfield) have already made the cut and wear the LAPD badge. They've got attitude, but they also have a sixth sense about crime. Even after their dispatcher tells them to disregard an earlier call about a break in at a warehouse -- some kind of power glitch set off the silent alarm, they're told -- the pair check out the report. Yes, there is a robbery in progress. Yes, there is a gunfight and yes, the cop with no surname bites the dust. Hank is reassigned to easier traffic duty to get his head back on straight but when he properly confronts Earl, trying to get at keys he's locked into his car, a confrontation ensues. Thanks to a local with a video camera, Hank is accused of beating the crap out of Earl and is bounced off the force. He finds a job as a security officer with a company called National Security.

Earl doesn't mind the position. He's got a badge and he's got a pair of handcuffs and a fine friend who loves role playing. Unfortunately, Earl does his playing while on duty "guarding" a warehouse. When a security alarm is tripped and a call goes out to regular uniforms, sounding suspiciously like the one that got Charlie killed, Hank (who has been monitoring the police frequency from his N.S. car) responds. Thus, our dynamic duo are paired for the rest of the film.

Well, Earl calls Hank "partner". Hank would rather be dead.

What else can we say about National Security? The rest of the supporting cast -- the bad guys -- aren't properly introduced or set up in anyway that fills us in on what is really going on. There's something about a million dollar beer keg made of super secret material, explained to us by a character that is never introduced or properly linked to either of the star characters (we assume it's Zahn's character. Martin's character connects only with humans bearing breasts). Who the white haired man (Eric Roberts) in charge of the villains is and/or what his motivation for evil (other than $$$) is, is similarly buried deep. That our stars despise each other but will come to respect and admire each other is a given. How that comes about is a pathetic bit of staging involving a stolen police car and a magic gun.

It's Earl's gun. It's a very big gun. It's hidden under the seat of Hank's car, which is locked and sitting outside a police impound yard. How the gun gets from that locked car back into Earl's possession is one of those things that, golly gee campers, isn't important enough to explain in the story. Sure, it's important to give our heroes adequate firepower and supercars that can bash through walls without damage but . ..

Ah, screw it. Trying to figure out National Security would take more time than it takes to sit and watch the thing. The only compliment to be paid to any part of this mess goes to actress Cleo King, who has a small part as a woman pulled over by Hank -- they need to commandeer her car -- who puts both "officers" in their proper places. Her scene is one of the few places where National Security is both funny and makes sense, story wise.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to National Security, he would have paid . . .


That's for the babe factor -- Robinne Lee as Hank's girlfriend and Dawn Lewis as the redheaded cop clerk at the impound yard. The parts are small and we'll get dissed for admiring the scenery. God knows there's little else to admire about this thing.

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