ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  dennis dugan

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  action

LENGTH  -  88 minutes

RELEASED  -  17 january 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  columbia pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  national security

national security - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from national security at

buy the dvd from national security at

two mismatched security guards are thrown together to bust a smuggling operation.

martin lawrence joined the "20 million club" after he was cast in national security.


picture from national security

picture from national security

picture from national security


one out of four possible stars

It should be said right off that National Security is rather racially offensive and doesn't spare the audience one moment from the barrage of insults and machine gun fire for even one of its ninety-one minutes. Of course, the film is an action movie, prone to displaying the characteristics often associated with that type of feature film. Witless dialogue, gigantic stunts, a heavy use of bullets. In many ways, this film is nothing more than a standard example of that genre.

But for all the effort put into making this film appear like an action film, the trailer seems to paint a somewhat different picture. (pun not intended) The tagline, "a buddy comedy, without the buddies" makes one think that the film will be filled with a good dose of comedy, but that is hardly the case. Though Martin Lawrence has a few very entertaining one-liners, he says them at the expense of the intelligence of his own character, and to the insult of African Americans. The jokes told in this film really degrade African Americans, and the dialogue isn't very sympathetic to white people, either.

Perhaps a film filled to the brim with offensive jokes was the aim of the director, Dennis Dugan. Judging from his previous directorial efforts, which include such titles in the same vein of comedy (Big Daddy, Saving Silverman), Dugan doesn't seem to have tried anything different with this picture other than add a few high powered stunts into it. And regarding those stunts, it should be said that though the dialogue accompanying them isn't always of the highest caliber, the action sequences are competently done and engaging for the audience.

In point of fact, since the jokes in the film don't always come up to scratch, knowing that the next gun fight or car chase will fly across the screen within moments is a comfort. At a crisp ninety minutes, the movie does roll along at a rather good clip, thankfully. But that doesn't stop Lawrence's one liners from being more awkward than entertaining. Most of his lines seem improvised and forced or like they were lifted directly out of one of his stand-up specials. It's very much like Chris Rock's appearance in the fourth Lethal Weapon movie.

Rock spent most of that film uttering lines plucked right out of his HBO special. And though Lawrence's lines seem less rehearsed (to his benefit), the tone of the piece still see-saws too much for his dialogue to be that comfortable. Like Lawrence's time in front of the camera, Steve Zahn also has to suffer through dialogue that seems wrong for his character. Though his performance is sincere and in spots, comedic (as it should be), what actually comes out of his mouth seems much too obvious. Of course, stating that about an action film might be futile.

After all, was not the purpose of this film to bring in fans of the genre and the actors for an hour and a half of brainless fun? Even if the "fun" in the film isn't always apparent, there are at least ten minutes where this picture becomes suitably entertaining. But one should question whether Martin Lawrence's presence in this film really warranted his twenty million dollar paycheck. While it is doubtless the growth of his popularity has made his "price" rise significantly with his continued success in front of the camera, it is strange to think that his stock price should be so large for a picture released in the cold dark winter of January.

A time of the year when lesser films are usually "dumped" by the studios in hopes that they will pass by the audiences unnoticed for their stupidity and forgiven for their faults. But with the spectacular stunts and large number of spent shells on the ground by the time the credits start rolling, the price for this picture was undoubtedly high. Of course, whether Hollywood will pay attention to their less than stellar creation is a matter for debate, because Lawrence will undoubtedly receive just as much money for his next movie, regardless of the box office earnings of this project. National Security has very few moments when it conceals its lack of brain-power and appears as anything more complicated than a badly written action movie.

It's possible that this film's only fans will be those willing to lower their scruples enough to enjoy the banality of it all. It certainly isn't original, though as action movies go, it gets the action component across all right. It might have been the lack of real comedic chemistry between Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn. Or it could have been the lack of creativity on the script page. Whatever the reason, National Security definitely isn't the best example of a buddy film. Of course, since the trailer said this was a buddy film "without the buddies," maybe that's the one thing this picture got right.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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