By Kim Hollis
August 22, 2003
Congratulations to Martin Lawrence! Now that I’ve seen both Bad Boys II and National Security, he’s two for two on having starring roles in movies that will almost certainly make my list of worst films of the year.
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that National Security is supposed to be a buddy cop comedy. The problem with that label is threefold: the characters portrayed by Lawrence and Steve Zahn are not buddies, nor are they cops, nor is the movie funny.
I should clarify. Zahn starts the movie portraying a cop. In the opening scene, his partner Timothy Busfield is killed, so Zahn is a man on a mission to bring down the criminal syndicate responsible. Meanwhile, Lawrence is at Police Academy (sans Steve Guttenberg) trying to earn his badge, but gets kicked out for being exceedingly annoying and idiotic (it’s a trend that will continue throughout the film). Their worlds collide when Zahn pulls Lawrence over in a traffic stop that’s supposed to be a comic parody of the Rodney King case and eventually gets thrown in prison for a mistaken case of police brutality.
Fast forward several months into the future, and both Zahn and Lawrence are employees at National Security, a private security company that provides officers for various businesses. Zahn is investigating the bad guys who he believes to be responsible for his partner’s death, and in the process, he stumbles into the business to which Lawrence is assigned. As a result, the two forge an unlikely partnership where they hate each other and can’t stand working together, but for some reason, they go on.
What follows is a painfully unfunny film that relies primarily on stupid racial jokes and insults along with a predictable and tedious story. Lawrence is reduced to a sad imitation of Undercover Brother’s Conspiracy Brother, while Zahn does his best portrayal of a zealous and crazy law enforcer. Meanwhile, Eric Roberts is on hand as Generic Bad Guy #1, though it’s hard to recognize him with a ludicrous white-blonde dye job.
Possibly the worst thing I can say about National Security is that Bad Boys II is funnier and more enjoyable. While I usually enjoy Zahn and Lawrence and have a particular affinity for minor player Colm Feore, there’s just nothing about National Security that I can compliment. The screenplay is dreary and phobia-filled, the acting is over-the-top, and the special effects are uninspiring. On the plus side, it does have a small edge over Bad Boys II in the tastefulness category. There are no exploding and desecrated dead bodies, and our lead characters actually recognize the sanctity of human life and avoid driving Humvees through shanty towns. However, I suspect there might have been if only the staff had a bigger budget to work with.
Because make no mistake about it, there are explosions galore. In fact, at one point I wondered if those water-filled blockade barrels exist only for the purpose of flashy car crashes in movies. It’s a prime example of how completely derivative and cliché National Security really is.
Sadly, the movies it hopes to emulate weren’t especially deserving of imitation in the first place. While Armed and Dangerous is a guilty pleasure of mine (I love John Candy), I recognize that it’s awful; the same can be said for Bad Boys and Police Academy. It’s one thing to take a concept and remaster it in a perceptive, ingenious manner; however, retreading old jokes and storylines is inexcusable. Avoid National Security at all costs unless you’re looking for background noise to help you take a nap.