Studio: Columbia Pictures
US Rating: PG-13 For Violence, Language and Some Sensuality
Film Length: 88 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition 1.85:1
Audio: English , French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish 5.1 (Dolby Digital)
Subtitles: Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English SDH, English, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai
The Show - out of
As I noted in my review for Blue Streak, Martin Lawrence is a very funny man. His show Martin, which ran for years, has been highly influential and extremely quotable. His big screen career, however, has never been solid. Some successes, especially when partnering with smoother onscreen talent, have been found. His greatest accomplishments in the theater are clearly the incredible Life with Eddie Murphy and Bad Boys with Will Smith. However, his solo runs have been far less successful; of a reduced caliber and lacking in the right mix that would temper his more chaotic comedic sensibilities while allowing him to explore his unique talents and capitalize on his skills.
When I think through his filmography, especially recently, it is a less than impressive slave. He has seen success in excess with Big Momma’s House and some with his romantic comedy attempts with A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, but falters with tired efforts, including Rebound, the aforementioned Blue Streak and the just plain daft Black Knight. His is a troubled library and, outside of the films where his partnerships with other talents helped yield success, lacks a standout.
National Security stars Lawrence as Earl Montgomery, a loud, cocksure and aggressive cop-wannabe seeking a spot on the force but unable to get out of his own way. When he again fails to make the cut, his bad day is just getting started. With his keys locked in his car, he is approached by a police officer, Hank Rafferty (Steve Zahn), who sees him trying to break into his car, mistaking him for a car thief. A comedy of errors ensues and the very white Hank Rafferty is videotaped by a bystander in what looks like a thorough beating of Earl. Hank is framed as a racist cop, despised by his once peers, railroaded by the city and sent to jail for a crime he did not commit. When he gets out, he does what many ex-cons apparently do, he becomes a security guard. Still angry over his experience, he begins looking into the death of his partner when he was on the force, a suspicious crime that happened shortly before he encountered Earl. But, when he finds those responsible breaking into a warehouse, he runs into Earl, who, as it happens, is now a Security guard as well. Things go from bad to worse when they have to team up to bring the bad guys down.
The film succeeds in a few ways, notably the partnering of Martin Lawrence’s brash outlandish comedic style with Steve Zahn’s angry man brimming with frustration and seething with aggravation over Lawrence’s accusations of him being a racist. And the racial humor, while not biting or deep, works in many scenes. Lawrence does well in these scenes, railing against racism that, while not always real in the film, is all too often real out here and the film recognizes that. It pokes fun at the obviousness of racism today and finds humor in assigning that to poor Hank, a victim of circumstance, who isn’t doing what Earl accuses him of. Zahn and Lawrence play off each other nicely, and with Earl’s ludicrous misalignment from realty (though he isn’t always wrong) and Hank’s stiffness, incensed rage and ridiculous moustache and hairline – these two harangue, harass and hassle each other to the point risking an embolism.
The script serves up some good humor and good situations for the duo to get into and argue about. Scribes Jay Scherick and David Ronn write in some good action sequences too, and they are handled surprisingly well by director Dennis Dugan, who has directed a fair few Adam Sandler comedies. There are plenty of car chases, gun fights and a few explosions laced throughout the simple and convenient plot, and it’s all in good fun. Dugan adds in the slow-motion, flying through the air while firing a gun cliché with good intention and pulls it off. The warehouse shoot-out sequence (apparently sponsored by a major soft drink company) is particularly fun and well executed.
National Security also has a good supporting cast, with Bill Duke (Commando), Colm Feore (The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Timothy Busfield (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) adding familiar faces and some good turns. This is a fun film that while isn’t great, is better than the typical Martin Lawrence vehicle.
National Security is presented with its original theatrical ratio of 1.78:1 intact in 1080p High Definition. Some good colors are present through the blueish palette used, but still muted at times. It is generally clean, generally clear and free of dust and debris, but nothing stands out. This isn’t shiny and new and retains a nice film look, but, as with the recent Blue Streak released on blu-ray at the same time, doesn’t stand up enough to considered worthy of your upgrade dollars.
National Security comes with a TrueHD 5.1 audio track. A pretty thumping soundtrack and active action sequences produce some good surround and sub-woofer activity, but the sound isn’t really that crisp and comes across soft sometimes. This audio works ok for the feature, but could have, and perhaps should have, been so much more.
Alternate Ending & Deleted Scenes – (21:26) – The first deleted scene presents the scene as scripted, which pages through as you read along and then shows the scene with Lawrence’s improvisations – as he adds to the scene his humor – and then is followed by the version as found in the film. His talent is quite something – very funny. The second is an action sequence filmed using a special high angle lense and is very, very short with no audio. The alternate ending has Colm Feore’s character beating Hank as he celebrates their victory over the bad guys and later has Martin Lawrence rejecting the offer of joining the LAPD in a moment designed for a sequel that never came.
”N.S.E.W” By Disturbing Tha Peace – Music Video – (4:19)
Director Commentary – Director Dennis Dugan (who used to direct the brilliant Moonlighting TV show) shares his thought process and ideas in making this film in a reasonably good commentary ported over from the standard DVD edition. He speaks very highly of his cast, especially Steve Zahn, his friend Timothy Busfield and of course, Martin Lawrence. Dugan admires Lawrence’s goofiness and talents at improvisation – qualities that have kept him popular and loved by audiences for years. Some interesting reflections here.
Previews – Trailers for Blu-Ray, Hancock, 21 and Casino Royal - 3 disc DVD and 2 disc Collector’s Edition blu-ray.
BD Live Enabled
National Security is among Martin Lawrence’s better theatrical outings and certainly helped Steve Zahn make an impression as a unique comedic figure. Zahn has even enjoyed some significant dramatic success as a POW in the superb Rescue Dawn. Here, however, he works well opposite Lawrence’s manic ways. Some good natured humor that spotlights race and pokes holes at racial stereotyping keeps the laughs coming and the actions sequences that take us back to the car crashing days of the 80’s and early 90’s help make this a pretty enjoyable, flawed but likable ride.