National Security (2003) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, and some sensuality
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn, Colm Feore, Bill Duke, Eric Roberts, Timothy Busfield, Stephen Tobolowsky, Joe Flaherty,
Director: Dennis Dugan
Screenplay: Jay Scherick, David Ronn
Obviously, I have seen many a movie over the years, but it's a rare one that I find too unbearable to sit through to the very end, no matter how bad it may be. After about 40 minutes of Martin Lawrence's colossal stinker, National Security, I could take no more. Offending my every sensibility, I just could not take any more horrendously bad humor and noise pollution, and what's worse is how cavalier it is in playing the race card to try to get laughs.
Now, I've sat through many comedies which didn't make me laugh before too, but this one is different. It actually made me angry. This is a level of anger at not just how bad it is, but how careless it is in using a legitimately real issue -- the lack of respect between the Los Angeles police and the African-American community it patrols -- and using it as a platform for ugly racist remarks and fostering stereotypes. What's worse is that this film only serves to exacerbate the problem rather than bring levity, because it clearly displays a loud and obnoxious Black man, speaking broken English and offensive slang, making up a phony story of police brutality simply as an excuse for his idiotic, reckless behavior.
This undermines a legitimate problem on abuse of authority among police officers, and even if it stars Martin Lawrence (Black Knight, Big Momma's House), the message delivered is that the African-American community are a bunch of lying whiners that will do anything to antagonize police into violence so they can point out how racist it is. In a film full of so many incredibly bad elements, the fact that they were able to cast an African-American willing to make a mockery of the legitimate pleas of actual victims of racist police brutality is beyond comprehension, especially a comedian held in such high regard.
The film starts off with Earl (Lawrence) in the local police academy trying to become a police officer, but being so antagonistic and reckless as to get himself kicked out on the spot. On the way out he realizes he had locked his keys in his car, and while trying to fetch them out, a passing patrol car driven by Hank (Zahn, Joy Ride) spots him and questions his intent. Earl immediately claims that Hank is a Nazi and racist pig for thinking he might be trying to steal a car, and his insults eventually lead Hank to try to make an arrest. While undergoing arrest, Earl spots a large bee floating around, which he is allergic to, leaving Hank to try to swat the bee away. An eyewitness to the events thinks Hank is beating Earl when he sees the baton flailing around, so he videotapes it and to all appearances, Hank is employing police brutality. Although wanting to be one, Earl hates cops so much that he is willing to let Hank go to jail for the incident. Upon his release, Hank can only find work as a security guard for a company called National Security, which employs Earl as well. Although the two hate each other, they are forced to work together in taking down a crime ring which may have been responsible for the death of Hank's partner.
Even without the offensive subject matter, National Security is a terrible film, possibly the worst in Lawrence's not-too-impressive career. Not all of the blame can be linked to Lawrence, especially when you look at the filmographies of the creative forces behind it. Director Dennis Dugan's most recent efforts include the sophomoric comedies Saving Silverman and Big Daddy. Screenwriters Jay Scherick and David Ronn's claims to scripting fame are working on I Spy and Serving Sara, two films not known for sparkling dialogue. With such a dearth of talent, it's probably no surprise that this project was D.O.A. from inception.
National Security is not recommended for anyone save Martin Lawrence's most unwavering of fans. It's as grating on one's nerves and intelligence as any film in recent years, and if anything, I wish it would kill the career Lawrence once and for all. Of course, I won't get my wish. With the kind of crap Lawrence's fans have sat through already, one would gather the threshold for entertainment is sufficiently low enough that he can keep spoon-feeding them rotting sewage like this, while they only gulp it down readily, smile and ask for more.
©2003 Vince Leo