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Still shot from the movie: National Security.

National Security

Earl Montgomery (Martin Lawrence) and Hank Rafferty (Steve Zahn) aren't exactly buddies, but the pair reluctantly agrees to work together to bring down a gang of murders. Get the movie review and more. »

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Overall: C-
Violence: D
Sexual Content: C
Language: D+
Drugs/Alcohol: A
Theater Release: 16 Jan 2003
Video Release: 26 May 2003
MPAA Rating: PG-13
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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.

National Security is rated PG-13: for violence, language and some sensuality.

Studio: 2003 Sony Pictures
Website: Official site for National Security.

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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