This may be Martin Lawrence's best movie thus far although not because the wise cracking comic has become more endearing to audiences. Instead, it's second-billed Steve Zahn that saves National Security from being a natural disaster.
The film opens with Earl Montgomery (Lawrence) attempting to become a member of the LA Police Force (yes we still remember Blue Streak). However, his cocky attitude overshadows any skills he may have, leaving him to settle for a security guard job.
Meanwhile Hank Rafferty (Steve Zahn), a dedicated law officer, is trying to cope after witnessing the fatal shooting of his partner (which we also see). With a hidden agenda to find the murderers, Hank reluctantly returns to his beat. But his first day back is more than a bust when he stops to investigate a man -- Earl -- who is attempting to retrieve a set of keys locked inside a car. Curious to know if the man owns the vehicle, Hank begins to question his motives.
The conversation quickly turns into a heated verbal dispute, a threatened arrest, and--when a bumblebee causes the suspect to panic about bee-sting allergies--an all out struggle. Caught on videotape by a passerby, the media turns the altercation into a Rodney King sequel.
Compelled to serve a six-month prison sentence, Hank's plans to find the killers is further delayed. Upon his release, the ex-constable takes employment as a security guard. In the course of his duties he discovers the gang of crooks he is looking for are in the process of robbing a warehouse. Engaging in a gunfight with the thieves, the determined man is flabbergasted when he also bumps into Earl--the warehouse security guard. With only their desire to be policemen in common, Hank and Earl form an unlikely partnership with the goal of hunting down the murderers.
This buddy-cop caper does provide some story, thanks to Zahn's surprisingly rounded character. Acting as straight man to Lawrence's rapid-fire accusations of racial prejudice and stand-up comic persona, his moments of brilliant introspection help viewers recognize it's the funny-man who has the color hang-up.
Unfortunately Zahn's performance is handcuffed to an arsenal of gun battles resulting in killings, hand-to-hand combats, and car crashes that put this comedy over the edge--just like the bad guy who is catapulted off a cliff and lands headfirst in the rocky ocean below. And as typical for this genre, the real police are next to useless--or they're criminals as well.
With Lawrence's usual sexual antics along with plentiful profanities, families will likely opt to have National Security quietly serve its time without visitation rights.