National Security

"Unbearable"

National Security Review


Directors often copy the techniques of respected filmmakers without raising much ire. But when a director borrows liberally from the volatile filmography of pyrotechnic prince Michael Bay, they're just asking for trouble. Dennis Dugan's National Security uses enough slow-mo shots and shimmering cinematography in its first 30 minutes to warrant the comparison. The presence of Bad Boys star Martin Lawrence only helps this waste feel like a Bay retread, the kind of garbage Mr. Pearl Harbor would pass on after deeming it far too stupid even for him.

In place of the charismatic Will Smith, Lawrence partners with an uncharacteristically intolerable Steve Zahn as Hank Rafferty, an LAPD officer whose partner is killed while investigating a warehouse break-in. Hank begs for the chance to apprehend the guilty parties, but he's bussed back down to walking his beat, reminded by his superiors (Colm Feore, Bill Duke) that he's "a uniform, not a detective."

It's on said beat that Hank first encounters Earl Montgomery (Lawrence), an arrogant police academy trainee whose desire to upstage his trainers gets him tossed out on his ear. Brainless and belligerent, Earl interprets any and all resistance as resentment against the black man. As the movie progresses, you'll discover that Earl turns every situation into a race issue, always with cringe-inducing results.

Of course, the formula requires that these two opposites become partners, and screenwriters Jay Scherick and David Ronn get there using a remarkably ridiculous sequence involving a bumblebee and police brutality. You have to see it to believe it, but as a result, the hapless Hank receives a six-month stint behind bars. Once free, the disgraced Hank endures two days of "intense training" and ends up back on the beat as a member of National Security. He reluctantly teams with fellow guard Earl, and the two continue the investigation into Hank's partner's murder.

Did anyone read this script before the camera's started to roll? After Hank's lengthy incarceration, the criminals not only have remained in Los Angeles, they continue to pull off the exact same crimes without interference. The script initially hints at stolen computer chips, but shifts gears to include a more valuable titanium metal alloy that the criminals melt and reshape into (I kid you not) beer kegs. Whoever dreamt up this premise must have been drunk themselves.

Plot deficiencies aside, the character of Earl could be Lawrence's most misguided attempt at humor to date. Every joke this buzzing gnat utters involves the exploitation of a racial stereotype, a shtick that grows old fast. Earl can't retain a consistent thought from one scene to the next, so his character (and his humor) is wildly inconsistent.

It's nice to see old standbys Feore and Duke playing high-ranking police officials yet again. Too bad they're required to exist in a vacuum, waiting patiently for the film's lead buffoons to noodle through a case Encyclopedia Brown could solve at the dinner table. What do you expect when your lead villain (Eric Roberts) is little more than a bleach-blonde European composite with an itchy trigger fingers? We learn nothing about his background, motivation, or mission. His reason for being is to point guns at our heroes, and he barely does that well.

Dugan's first attempt at full-bodied action feels wholly unoriginal. By catapulting cars through the air and dangling his stars off cliffs, his film defies logic as many times as it defies physics. Dugan's creative enough to stage a major shootout in a warehouse filled with soda bottles, allowing his camera to capture exploding streams of gooey liquid as his protagonists fire off giant hand cannons. Erotic? Only if your name happens to be Charlton Heston.

Security avoids total damnation by mustering one humorous visual. The perpetually bickering partners commandeer a student driver's vehicle and attempt to pilot the car using both its steering wheels. It's a perfect metaphor for this flick. Two parties drive in completely opposite directions until the vehicle they're in crashes and burns.

Zahn, with bong.



National Security

Facts and Figures

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Friday 17th January 2003

Box Office USA: $35.8M

Box Office Worldwide: $36.3M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures

Production compaines: Columbia Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 11%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 78

IMDB: 5.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Earl Montgomery, as Hank Rafferty, as Detective Frank McDuff, as Lieutenant Washington


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