“National Security” is another in a string of indistinguishable dumb action comedies that would all run together in the mind of anyone unfortunate enough to watch them if they were not so instantly forgettable.
It is clearly modeled after classic action comedies like “Beverly Hills Cop,” but this one is less a movie than a three-minute coming attraction with 90 extra minutes of padding. Situations that can be set up in an instant are given drawn-out explanations that test the attention spans of even the most committed fans of the movie’s performers. It’s the basic buddy set-up: two security guards team up to find some bad guys.
As in all buddy films, the buddies have issues they have to resolve with each other before they can resolve the issues they have together. In the sorry history of Hollywood “meet cute” set-ups, this one is particularly weak. Police academy reject Earl (Martin Lawrence) is trying to retrieve the keys he locked in his car when police officer Hank (Steve Zahn), thinking he is trying to steal the car, asks him what he is doing. Earl’s hostile response leads Hank to begin to arrest him. Earl, already agitated, gets even more upset when a bee flies toward him. A bystander making a family movie films what looks like Hank brutally beating Earl, when all Hank is doing is trying to get rid of the bee. Like the Rodney King video, it sparks a public outcry for justice, and Hank does hard time in prison for six months.
They meet up again when the same bad guys Hank saw kill his partner show up in the warehouse Earl is guarding. They have to learn to work together and trust each other in order to save the day.
Director Dennis Dugan and his two stars seem to be making three different movies. Zahn and Lawrence have no chemistry and they careen listlessly between dull banter and dull chases and explosions. Dugan, the director of Adam Sandler movies like “Big Daddy,” has no feeling for action sequences. The only interesting moment comes when they hide something in the garage of Hank’s ex-girlfriend.
The movie wastes two exceptionally talented performers. Lawrence occasionally gets a chance to give a short riff that creates a bright spot, but Zahn seems as bummed to be in the movie as the audience was to watch it.
Parents should know that the movie has a great deal of violence, some strong language, and a kinky sex scene involving handcuffs.
Families who see this movie should talk about Earl’s views on race and how he has to rethink his own prejudices when he takes Hank’s ex-girlfriend for the maid.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the far better “Beverly Hills Cop” and “48 Hours” (both with mature material.