Volume 96, Issue 64
Thursday, January 23, 2003

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MOVIE REVIEW: National Security
No one is safe from National Security

National Security
Starring: Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn, Bill Duke, Eric Roberts
Directed by: Dennis Dugan

By Mark Polishuk
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
"IT'S YOUR FAULT THIS MOVIE BOMBED, ZAHN - I'M THE FUNNY ONE!" Martin Lawrence (left) and Steve Zahn face off in National Security.
You know those cameras that doctors use during a colonoscopy to look inside a patient's rectum? Even that footage would have been preferable to National Security, an early contender for the title of 2003's worst movie.

Steve Zahn stars as Los Angeles Police Department officer Hank Rafferty, whose partner Charlie (Timothy Busfield) is killed while investigating a factory robbery. A distraught Hank is barred from investigating the case by his superior officers, played by Bill Duke and Colm Feore. As a result, Hank winds up taking out his frustration on Earl Montgomery (Martin Lawrence), a security guard whose "me-against-the-world" attitude keeps him from ever becoming a cop.

Hank believes Earl is stealing a car, and ends up being videotaped "beating" Earl when he is actually just trying to swat a bee. Hank ends up losing his badge, serving six months in jail, and ending up as a lowly security guard himself.

On its own, this premise isn't all that bad. It could have been turned into a clever satire of racial politics and potentially conveyed a meaningful message to the audience. But if there is anything that National Security doesn't want to be, it is clever and meaningful.

The movie degenerates into one mindless action scene after another, as Earl and Hank cross paths again, and end up having to reluctantly join forces in order to solve the criminal conspiracy behind Charlie's death (we couldn't have seen that plot twist coming a mile away).

A couple of the action sequences are reasonably interesting, but the entire film loses all shred of credibility during the climactic fight scene between Earl and the villainous Nash (Julia's big brother, Eric Roberts). All of director Dennis Dugan's fancy camerawork cannot obscure the fact that the audience is supposed to be impressed by Martin Freakin' Lawrence fighting Eric Freakin' Roberts.

It's safe to officially close the book on Martin Lawrence as a leading actor. He is the guy who gets the leftovers after Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and even Chris Tucker pass on trash like this. His angry, black man act is not only clichéd, but Lawrence is so obnoxious that it is impossible to care about his character at all. Despite his "friendship" with Hank, Earl never even apologizes for costing Hank his job. Given how badly Hank gets screwed over in this movie, you find yourself hoping for Hank to ditch Earl and solve the case himself.

Zahn, usually a dependably funny actor, has absolutely nothing to work with here. Other good actors like Duke and Colm "Pierre Trudeau" Feore basically mail in their performances. One scene features Bill Duke inexplicably eating a bag of chips during a tense meeting, and one gets the feeling that it wasn't product placement, but just a case of Duke not wanting to skip lunch for the sake of this wretched movie.

Even the title is misleading. Anyone who goes to see this film may be driven to violent rebellion against a culture that could produce a movie as god-awful as this. Now, more than ever, don't see National Security.


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