National Security Movie Review
- Friday, January 17, 2003
Genre: Action, Comedy
Rating: PG-13 (for violence, language and some sensuality)
Release Date: January 17, 2003
Actors: Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn, Eric Roberts, Colm Feore, Bill Duke, Timothy Busfield, Wayne Morse, Robinne Lee, Troy Gilbert
Director: Dennis Dugan
Special Notes: Eric Roberts is the brother of famous sister Julia Roberts, Bill Duke directed Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), and Timothy Busfield starred in that famous "Thirty Something" TV show back in the '80s.
Plot: After officer Hank Rafferty (Zahn) and his partner (Busfield) surprise a group of thieves, his partner is shot and killed. Hank consoles himself by getting back on the streets to avenge his death but with a warning from his captain (Duke) to stay out of the investigation. Earl Montgomery (Lawrence) is a cocky L.A.P.D. cadet who gets kicked off the force because he has an attitude against authority and a rebellious behavior. He's forced to resume his job as an overzealous security guard at "National Security." While on patrol, Hank spots Earl reaching through his car window to get his keys, Hank confronts him (assuming he's a burglar) and a fight ensues. Earl accuses Hank of police brutality and after a quick trial; Hank is thrown into prison for 6 months. Once out, Hank gets a job at "National Security" and resumes the hunt for his partner's killers. As fate would have it, the two meet again but this time, Earl works with him to uncover a sophisticated smuggling operation led by Nash (Roberts) and a few crooked police officers.
Good: I'm a fan of Zahn's dry wit and whiny California accent--all he has to do is open his mouth and I laugh. This would have been a good role for him had he been given a better script and allowed to act instead of just react to Lawrence's lines. Roberts is another actor who was underused. He can play a great bad guy and probably would have been more menacing had he been given the chance (but I loved his blonde dye job!) Then there's Lawrence.
Bad: In the interest of national security, I'm going to call this movie as I see it. It's not that this movie is bad, it's just "ok" and probably better suited for a rental. The blame doesn't fall completely on Lawrence, screenwriters Jay Scherick & David Ronn had a lot to do with it. Aside from a few humorous one liners, for the most part the plot consists of lots of gun fights, several chase scenes, stereotype bad guys shooting at the good guys and missing a lot, and lots of bad jokes and racist accusations against the "white man". Lawrence plays his character exactly like all of his other roles: annoying, whiny, immature and lusting after almost every woman who walks by. His character throws childlike tantrums blaming everything on racial discrimination, lies about being beaten, then willingly allows Hank to serve time for a crime he didn't commit, and continually speaks with an irritating street "Ebonics" slang that is sometimes hard to understand but definitely NOT something you want your impressionable teenager to copy or start speaking (sorry, my bad!). His constant complaining about being a "victim" of "white man superiority" gets real old after about the 40th time of hearing it. The real problem is that there IS no "white man superiority" going on--it's just Hank doing his job and getting a bum rap for circumstances that make him look guilty. Earl never apologizes for his false accusations, admits his guilt, or tries to make amends for his behavior, it's just written off as "humor". In other words, the script cops-out (pardon the pun) on reverse discrimination that becomes too lopsided and quite frankly sort of awkward in today's politically correct climate. It's just not that funny. There's even a side-plot (and subsequent joke) about the fact that Hank is dating a gorgeous black woman. There's an abundance of obscenities and a few profanities, lots of crude/vulgar remarks, lots of dialogue about white people having an attitude against blacks, and a woman takes her clothes off but keeps her underwear on and is handcuffed to a pipe. A man is sitting on a toilet, and there are lots of cars that crash and men that get shot.
Bottom Line: Even though I enjoyed Zahn (and the restrained look he wore on his face through most of the movie) and Duke in this predictable action/comedy, Lawrence's performance was so--well--typical Lawrence; it sort of ruined the movie for me. If a Caucasian character said half the stuff Lawrence gets away with saying and accusing, there would be all sorts of protests from minority interest groups. I just wish he would have taken advantage of Zahn's incredible skills at playing the sidekick--it would have been funnier. The abundance of language and one implied "kinky" sexual circumstance prevents me from recommending this movie to anyone under 16.
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