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African-American Earl Montgomery (Martin Lawrence) is dismissed from the LAPD cadet course for overzealous conduct and insubordination toward his training officer. Stopped by patrolman Hank Rafferty (Steve Zahn) on suspicion of car-stealing, Earl baits the white policeman and succeeds in having Hank dismissed from the force for harassment and sentenced to six months in prison. After Hank's release he becomes a security guard and discovers Earl is employed by the same company - National Security. Thrown together in a shootout with the same gang who killed Hank's partner, Earl and Hank decide to join forces and take the investigation into their own unauthorised hands. Hank’s bitterness and Earl's refusal to admit his role in framing Hank makes the partnership appear doomed but the unlikely duo slowly win each other's respect as the hunt for the gang intensifies.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
As disposable as they come, National Security is a modestly entertaining re-hash of cop-buddy films of the 80s. Running Scared, 48 Hrs and just about every other mismatched duo outing have been recycled as loud-mouthed black dude Earl (Martin Lawrence) and square-head white guy Hank (Steve Zahn) hurl abuse at each other for half the film before mutual respect wins through and they catch the creeps. 

A couple of factors give this one a little more juice than you'd normally expect. The first is a racial discrimination theme that surprisingly offers real food for thought. After being kicked out of the LAPD training programme by what he perceives as a racist white hierarchy, Earl deliberately sets up white cop Hank on Rodney King-like brutality charges. He's unrepentant about destroying Hank's career and sending him to the slammer for 6 months. As he says to Hank "you lost your job, you went to prison unfairly and now you're earning $182 a week as a security guard - now you're a black man". Earl's sustained attack on how hard it is to be black in LA is far more absorbing than the familiar plot and I was left with the impression that this might have worked better as a serious drama. The other appealing element is excellent use of LA locations. 

Proving there are parts of the movie capital we haven't seen a thousand times, director Dennis Dugan stages an exciting car chase at the police compound on the outskirts of town and executes a cracking finale at a disused fort on the coast. Otherwise this is pretty standard stuff and you can tick off the cliches as you go. Every time cops order fast food they'll be called to an emergency, even when it's sunny in the background it will be raining at a police funeral and there's always a crooked detective involved with the bad guys. Lawrence, whose brand of humour I don't find very funny, works well enough with Zahn to make this acceptable popcorn entertainment and the sight of Eric Roberts as a bleach-blonde gunman is quite amusing. Clocking in at an efficient 90 minutes, National Security would probably have gone straight to video had it not been a Martin Lawrence vehicle and will make a good Friday night rental when it hits the shelves. As big screen fare it's got just enough to satisfy fans of slam-bang action but won't be a revelation for the unconverted.

Special Features reviewed by Craig Miller:
The movie and its audio track has seemingly been designed with DVD in mind, with more high paced action scenes than there are plot lines, making it not only a pretty loud experience for surround sound set ups, but also quite a good one. Unfortunately the extras package is not as impressive.

An uninspired commentary from self confessed popcorn filmmaker Dugan, focuses more on the actors and performances than it does on anecdotes and filmmaking, and although it is far from boring, it is hardly riveting stuff.

The two deleted scenes show Martin Lawrence ad-libbing his way through a scene and walking down a hallway (I kid you not), while the so called alternate ending, would have been more at home under a ‘horrible movie scene ideas’ title than ‘bonus material’. The music video performed by Disturbing The Piece is little more than DVD filler, but it’s there if you like that hip hop thang.

Published September 11, 2003

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CAST: Steve Zahn, Martin Lawrence, Colm Feore, Bill Duke, Eric Roberts, Timothy Busfield, Robinne Lee

DIRECTOR: Dennis Dugan

SCRIPT: Jay Scherick, David Ronn

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1.85:1 16:9 Enhanced Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with director Dennis Dugan, Deleted scenes and alternate ending, Music video ‘N.S.E.W.’ performed by Disturbing The Piece.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: September 10, 2003

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