National Security

on January 17, 2003 by Paul Clinton
Routine buddy-cop antics drive "National Security," a lackluster effort from those involved. The movie's white-cop, black-cop duo--played by Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn--pass off hackneyed slapstick and ethnic jokes as they pursue a gang of dirty cops. The plot, which involves two security guards who foil an international smuggling ring led by high-placed members of the L.A.P.D., is cobbled together from a dozen other movies. It's all right out of "Beverly Hills Cop," without the originality the premise had 20 years ago or Eddie Murphy's grinning manic humor. Instead, we have Lawrence, a comedian who, despite his best efforts, has lost whatever it was that made him seem funny at one time.

Lawrence stumbles through a string of non sequitur and nonsensical jokes--he brags about his "periphery" vision--painfully reminding us why he is no Richard Pryor (his obvious role model). Lawrence, who mumbles many of his lines unintelligibly, is clearly out of sync in this role.

As the straight-arrow cop, Zahn provides the movie with a few genuinely funny moments, but he and Lawrence clearly have no chemistry together; their exchanges irritate rather than dazzle. Eric Roberts barely registers as a smuggler, while Bill Duke and Colm Feore as police brass are given too little screen time.

Screenwriters David Ronn and Jay Scherick, who collaborated on the misfire "I Spy," toss off their string of bad racial jokes that, when they aren't off-putting, hit the screen with a mighty thud. Starring Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn, Colm Feore and Eric Roberts. Directed by Dennis Dugan. Written by David Ronn and Jay Scherick. Produced by Michael Green, Robert F. Newmyer and Jeffrey Silver. A Columbia release. Action/Comedy. Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality. Running time: 87 min

Tags: Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn, Colm Feore, Eric Roberts, Dennis Dugan, smuggler, cop, funny, unintelligbly, nonsensical jokes, buddy comedy

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