I still hold out a little bit of hope that Martin Lawrence can bring his career back to the level it was once at. Either doing the same thing ("Blue Streak" was funny, but do we need another one next year, especially after this similar picture?) or making some terribly poor judgements in material (see "Black Knight" or, better yet, don't). Yet, Lawrence has shown flashes of talent over the years - his inspired pairing with Tim Robbins in "Nothing To Lose" worked wonderfully, and that film also offered the best performance Lawrence has offered yet - one that had heart and humor.
"National Security" is both an instance of more of the same and a trailer showing all the funny parts. The best thing I can say about it is that it's not Lawrence's worst, although not by that much. As the picture opens, LAPD officer Hank Rafferty has just lost his partner in a bust at a warehouse. Hank wants to investigate, but his superiors remind him that he's an officer, not a detective. Soon enough, he runs into Earl Montgomery (Lawrence), who has just gotten kicked out of the academy for destruction of property and generally acting obnoxious.
The two meet when Hank suspects that Earl might be stealing his own car that he's locked himself out of. A bee shows up and stings Earl, who's allergic. Hank is trying to swipe it away with his nightstick, and someone's videotaping the whole thing from an angle that makes is look like police brutality. Hank winds up in prison for six months, finding himself paired with Earl when both become security guards. Hank uses the time and the aid of his reluctant new partner to track down the leader (Eric Roberts. Yes, that Eric Roberts) of the gang of smugglers he believes is responsible for the loss of his partner. The smugglers are smuggling a special metal out of the country disguised as beer kegs. Yes, that's the plot.
"Security"'s pairing of Zahn and Lawrence might seem like a good idea on paper, but Zahn's caffinated delivery and Lawrence's timing don't work well together. Surprisingly, Tim Robbins - who certainly isn't known for comedy - proved to be a much better pairing with Lawrence. Lawrence's obnoxiousness still gets a good laugh here and there, but a lot of jokes throughout the picture fall flat (no surprise, given this is written by "I Spy"'s David Ronn and Jay Scherick. Once again, the thin plot seems like filler between jokes), as do every instance of Lawrence's character yelling "What the problem is?" Zahn's yelling and wide-eyed delivery occasionally gets a chuckle, but he's been much better elsewhere. The strangest choice of all is Dennis Dugan, a director ("Happy Gilmore", "Saving Silverman") who has had no previous experience with action. Although paired with ace cinematographer Oliver Wood, Dugan still can't put together an effective action sequence. Another completely forgettable Lawrence feature.
VIDEO: "National Security" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame on this dual-layer, single-sided disc. The anamorphic widescreen presentation is generally fine, although there are some concerns present in a few scenes throughout the picture. Sharpness and detail are usually very good, if not entirely consistent - the picture usually looks crisp and clear, but a few scenes here and there appear softer.
Problems occasionally did occur, though: edge enhancement was noticable in several scenes and a couple of instances of slight pixelation were also spotted. Surprisingly enough for a relatively new picture, there were also a couple of specks and marks on the print used. The film's bright color palette was well-reproduced, though: colors remained vivid and well-saturated.
SOUND: "National Security" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in Dolby Digital 5.1. Although the majority of the film's soundtrack could easily be described as a "comedy mix" (definition: dialogue-focused, with little ambience or other touches), the action sequences suddenly put the surrounds to surprisingly aggressive use. Gunfire and other sound effects loudly zip from both surrounds. Dialogue remained clear throughout, as did the score and rap songs scattered throughout the soundtrack.
EXTRAS: Thankfully, Columbia/Tristar has spared viewers promotional featurettes that would have likely gone on about how "National Security" is a "groundbreaking" buddy comedy and how everyone involved was "wonderful" (I'm getting very sick of featurettes on DVDs, if you couldn't tell), or something like that.
Commentary: Despite my irritation with aspects of the movie, director Dennis Dugan really does provide a fun, enjoyable commentary. The director's likable, energetic personality makes for an entertaining 90 minutes and he does manage to provide some decent bits of information here and there (Coke provided 400,000 bottles of pop for an action sequence - talk about product placement) throughout.
Deleted Scenes: These include a lengthy set of Lawrence improvs for one scene (we're first shown the script, then Lawrence's takes), an alternate angle for one action shot and an alternate ending that's completely ridiculous.
Also: Music video and trailers for "Charlies Angels: Full Throttle", "Bad Boys II" and "National Security".
Final Thoughts: "National Security" has a few moments, but it mostly wastes the talents of its two stars on a largely unfunny screenplay. Columbia/Tristar's DVD offers fine audio/video quality and a few supplements. A rental - at most - for those interested.
The Film **