LAPD reject and major troublemaker Earl (Martin Lawrence) got L.A. cop Hank (Steve Zahn) kicked off the force for brutality. Now, these two guys who can't stand each other, are stuck working together as lowly security guards. And they're playing cops to bring down a smuggling ring-if they can stay alive and stay one step ahead of the real cops.
Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn, Colm Feore, Bill Duke, Eric Roberts
Jay Scherick, David Ronn
They only look like cops.
Opening weekend $16.813 million on 2729 screens.
Domestic gross $35.764 million.
Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround
Runtime: 88 min.
Release Date: 5/27/2003
• Director's Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Alternate Ending
• Music Video "N.S.E.W. by Disturbing Tha Peace
• Bonus Trailers
TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32";
Subwoofer - JBL PB12;
DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700;
Receiver - Sony STR-DE845;
Center - Polk Audio CS175i;
Front Channels - Polk Audio;
Rear Channels - Polk Audio.
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National Security (2003)
Reviewed by David Williams (June 19, 2003)
Martin Lawrence has one of the most schizophrenic careers I’ve ever seen – his films range from good to great to absolutely horrid and when you plop down to watch one, it’s like Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re gonna get”. That’s essentially the reason I’ve sworn off paying full price for any Martin Lawrence film; they’re just too darn inconsistent. That being said, I’m not above asking for a DVD screener to review to see if my feelings about Lawrence’s choice of projects has gotten any better! Surprisingly enough, National Security was a step in the right direction. While nowhere near a redemptive effort on Lawrence’s part, the film was actually much, much better than I expected. (You should know however, that my expectations were essentially in the gutter.)
While the film is very formulaic and is interchangeable with many other, admittedly better films, in the “buddy/cop/action/comedy” genre, National Security still manages to entertain you even though it feels somewhat rehashed and disposable at times because of its prescribed premise - put two mismatched partners together, watch them bicker and battle and grudgingly grow to love and respect each other. Throw in a life threatening event towards the end of the film that turns into a life saving one and you’ve got 48 Hours-lite … albeit with worse actors.
In National Security, Martin Lawrence plays Earl Montgomery, a hard-charging student at the LA Police Academy who gets booted for some rather spirited and over-the-top behavior during training. Not real happy about being dismissed, Earl walks up to his car and finds his keys locked inside. Trying to reach them via a cracked front window, he’s spotted by patrol officer Hank Rafferty (Steve Zahn), who's understandably suspicious. When Hank approaches Earl about his hand reaching through the car window and accuses him of trying to break in, Earl automatically plays the race card (What else?) and the two get into an argument. The argument turns into an over-the-top tussle because neither man knows what the other has recently been through. You see, Hank recently lost his partner in a shootout (which we see at the beginning of the film) and Earl has just been kicked out of the police academy … and these two meeting over a tense situation on a day like this is ripe for problems.
Then, a bee enters the picture – and Earl is highly allergic to bees – and this causes more tribulations for the two. An eyewitness video captures images Hank swatting at the bee with his nightstick, which on the tape, from a different angle, looks like “Rodney King II” – a white cop brutalizing a black suspect. The video airs on all of the local channels and Hank is subsequently arrested and tried. Earl deliberately misleads the jury in order to get back at Hank and in turn, has him sent off to prison for six months. (Let me step out of the review for a second to say something real quick. Namely the fact the police brutality, especially when it’s a white officer on a black suspect, isn’t all that funny to begin with; but to make matters worse, Lawrence’s character deliberately lies about it in court and has an innocent officer sent off to jail for no reason other than the fact the he was mad about being accused of breaking into his own car. Kind of a shaky, if not a somewhat sickening punch line if you ask me.)
After six months of incarceration, Hank is released and hired as a security guard for “National Security” and he uses his spare time to track down his partner’s killers. One night, while responding to an alarm and following another lead on the baddies, who should Hank run in to but his old buddy Earl, also working as a security guard for the company. The two stumble into trouble and after a rather impressive shootout with thousands of spent bullets and lots of busted Coke bottles, the bad guys get away and once again, Earl blackmails Hank. This time, into letting him help him find the killers. You see, even though neither of them are “real” cops at the moment, Earl feels like catching the baddies would make the LAPD do a double-take … and at the same time, avenge Hank’s partner’s death. The explanation is blown off pretty quickly, as character motivation shouldn’t get in the way of comedy, but ultimately, the story has something to do with some sort of smuggling/importing operation headed up by a blonde Eric Roberts. But don’t let something as silly as the plot get in the way …
With a script from by Jay Scherick and David Ronn, the duo who brought the world such greats as Serving Sara and the god-awful I Spy remake, and being directed by Dennis Dugan, whose past credits include Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, and Saving Silverman, you shouldn’t set your expectations too high. But in the end, I think you’ll be playfully surprised at the sheer number of genuinely enjoyable moments in the film. National Security won’t ever be accused of being original, but it’s entertaining enough to warrant a look.
The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio B+ / Bonus C+
Columbia has provided National Security with a 1.33:1 fullscreen presentation, as well as an anamorphically enhanced widescreen presentation in the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. (FYI, I only checked out the widescreen version of the film for the purposes of this review.)
The film was consistently sharp and detailed and displayed all the positive properties that such a recent film should. The master print is obviously in pristine shape, as there were rarely any instances of dirt, grain, or specks seen at any time throughout the short running time of the film. National Security’s color palette was rather generic and didn’t do much to impress, but Columbia has accurately rendered all of the hues in a very precise and accurate manner. Black levels were deep and bold and allowed for strong shadow detail and delineation, with a very film-like and three-dimensional appearance.
Flaws with Columbia’s transfer were minimal, as I noted a bit of shimmer and haloing in a couple of scenes, as well as a miniscule amount of grain. Major flaws and inaccuracies were non-existent in National Security and Columbia has really done a fine job here on the video transfer for the film.
National Security looks quite nice – as it should for such a recent release from a major studio. For fans of the film who haven’t already checked this one out, you’ll be pleased with Columbia’s results.
National Security gets a somewhat impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfer that was rather active for a comedy, although the film does attempt to straddle the “action” genre as well. In spots, the track became very busy and enveloping, with some really nice activity heard in the rear surrounds.
The track was very crisp and natural, with the front surrounds getting the majority of the play. However, the rears make sure to get a piece of the action too, as there were a couple of warehouse shootouts that had gunfire bouncing around the soundstage and there were more than a few occasions where general environmental effects filled in the soundstage quite nicely. There was some nice separation and imaging in the front surrounds, with dialogue anchored there as well and ultimately, Columbia has provided National Security with a very pleasing mix that should gratify hardcore and casual fans alike.
The musical soundtrack for National Security could be slightly overpowering at times, but it never got so bad that it interfered with the rest of the film. The hip-hop tracks were quite rich, with very crisp highs and taut lows that sounded quite nice coming through your surround setup. The LFE was most bombastic during these moments and sounded quite nice.
Columbia has also included a Dolby Surround mix in French, as well as English and French subtitles.
While National Security didn’t do bang-up business at the box office, it did well enough that Columbia decided it was worthy of “Special Edition” treatment. However, don’t let the SE banner fool you, as there’s not a whole heck of a lot here to keep fans engaged for too long.
Starting things off is an Audio Commentary with director Dennis Dugan. While Dugan has been the man behind some really funny films, his commentary is rather boring and lackadaisical, without much in the way of very interesting or engaging material. His personality is such that you can’t help but listen to him because he seems to be a very energetic person, but in the end, there’s not a whole lot offered up here to make it very worthwhile. Hardcore fans might glean something interesting from Dugan’s comments, but everyone else would be better served spending 90-minutes doing something else. I mean, how much do you really want to know about National Security?
Following is Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending and included are two deleted scenes from the film (“Martin Lawrence Improv: Interrogation” and “Overhead Hallway”) and a much more convoluted alternate ending for the film. The two deleted scenes are shown only after we view the pages from the actual script. The script runs as a slideshow that can only be advanced through by using the –FF- button on your DVD remote. This was a different type of implementation than what I’m used to seeing and unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as having the two features (script / deleted scenes) separated. While the scenes and alternate ending were nice additions to the set, the filmmakers made the right decision by going with what was seen during the theatrical feature.
Last up is a Music Video: “N.S.E.W.” by Disturbing Tha Peace featuring I-20, Tity-Boi and Lil Fate. The mere mention of the participants will tell you whether or not this one is up your alley. If you’re interested, the video is presented in fullscreen and Dolby Digital 2.0.
Also included are some Trailers for National Security, as well as other Columbia titles including Bad Boys II and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
Gibson/Glover and Murphy/Nolte this ain’t and even though National Security is the rent-a-cop version of a “buddy/action” film, it still managed to make me laugh in more than a few spots. It features Lawrence in one of his better roles of late and Columbia has put out a quite acceptable DVD to match.
Fans of the film can’t go wrong picking this one up, while everyone else might want to rent it for the weekend first before splurging for an all-out purchase.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.481 Stars|| Number of Votes: 79|