National Security CoverTo have some sort of protection available to you is a good thing in my book - no matter where you are, what you do, or how you do it. However, I find that there are occasions where protective measures can be somewhat overzealous. Now a good example of this would be this film, Directed by Dennis Dugan; and Starring: Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn. It was made in 2003 and lasts for 88 minutes.

National Security

Los Angeles Police Office, Hank Rafferty (Steve Zahn), has a very emotional time with his partners.

His first partner, Charlie, he likes very much. He respects him, he abides by his wishes, and he mourns for him when Charlie is shot dead in the line of duty.

However, Hank’s second – and eventual – partner, Earl Montgomery (Martin Lawrence), is a completely different kettle of fish altogether.

You see, the first time Hank meets Earl – it is under dubious circumstances – where Hank is seen to be beating on Earl, when in fact he is actually ushering away a bee with his baton. The second time Hank meets Earl – is in court – when Earl sues him for grievous bodily harm, resulting in Hank being stripped of his badge and then sent to prison for six month. And the third time Hank meets Earl – is once Earl is released from prison – and he is investigating the death of his previous partner, Charlie, whilst they are both on the payroll of ‘National Security’.

This time though, chance encounter leads them both on a roller-coaster ride of an adventure, where: (1) Hank and Earl interrupts a crooked exchange in a bottle factory. (2) Hank and Earl get reprimanded by the cops because of this encounter. (3) In haste, they track down the crooks truck, and manage to get away with a bear keg made from precious metals. (4) Hank tries to get Earl to admit that his incarceration was unjust to his girlfriend, which does not work out for him. (5) Both Hank and Earl are hounded by the police for allegedly stealing the bear keg. And (6) They figure out who the real mastermind behind the crooked endeavor really is.

So what happens next? Hmm? More of the same – but this time both Hank and Earl find a common ground, resulting in bees to attack – crooks to tumble – endeavours to be exposed – and heroes to be rewarded.

And it’s nothing to do with race either!

OK, now I have to try my best to not be overly critical about 'National Security', as in essence it could have been a very good film. Now the reason why I say this, is that on first viewing, the whole story-line does appear to be a somewhat farcical affair. Well, the basic premise is about how two diametrically opposed people meet – clash – and then make up at the end. And though by in large I am correct with this presumption, at the same time, it is a really fun film in places.

Both of the leads in this film – Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn – are very good in it – but for completely different reasons.

Steve and Martin in National Security

Where Steve is concerned – he plays the ‘straight man’ out of the two – and he manages to capture the essence of a charming, straight-laced, downtrodden, and lowly hero, to a tea. In fact, he is a little too good at this, that when Martins’ character messes up his life, you feel more for him than if he was just a prick who deserves to be slapped down.

Where Martin is concerned – he plays the ‘comedic element’ out of the two – and he likewise manages to capture the essence of a fast-talking, chip on his shoulder, bragged, that you just want to slap in the face. In fact, he does this so well also, that you cannot help but dislike him when he starts to mess up Steve’s characters life. Granted, there does come a point in the story where all is forgiven and peace is made between the two. However, by this point in the movie, it does feel too contrived – formulaic even.

National Security Film Review

Fair enough, I know that this is just a jovial comedy. But at the same time there are rules to comedy which makes’ it funny in the first place. To quote Python, John Cleese “Comedy is funnier when no harm is intended and disrespect is not felt” – and it is felt in this film – and that is where one of the problems lies.

Now the other problem comes in the form of the story itself – as it just zips around all over the place, and tries to do too much without giving any of the set pieces any firm grounding. For example, at the beginning of the film, Steve’s character is sent to prison for six months. However, in ‘movie time’, it was only for two minutes – too fleeting, too impertinent, and too hollow.

The Cast of National Security

Listen, with all due respected to everyone involved with this piece, there were a couple of moments in this film that did work very well for me. Like the gradual bonding between Steve’s and Martin’s characters. Like how some of the jokes really punched home with a real kick to them. And like the imposing quality of the Lieutenant played by Bill Duke. As for everything else though – oops – I promised myself that I would not be overly critical about this film – too late, huh?

Overall, ‘National Security’ isn’t a bad ‘buddy movie’. And is very reminiscent of films like ‘Police Academy’ and ’48 Hours’ – just without the charm. Still, if you are a fan of Martin or Steve’s work, it is well worth a watch – if only for the fact that when they are good, they are really-really good.