What do you get when you team a wise-cracking Martin Lawrence with an intolerant Steve Zahn? You end up with a recipe for an odd-couple action comedy - one that's already been pulled off a thousand times. "National Security" does just that, delivering run-of-the-mill overdone jokes and a storyline completely lacking originality.
The story takes off with officer Hank (Steve Zahn) witnessing the murder of his own partner by a man with a tattoo on his arm. Hank is distraught, and attempts to take on the case on a very personal level, much to the disapproval of his superiors. Meanwhile, a wise-cracking, egoistic and wannabe recruit named Earl (Martin Lawrence) is kicked out of the Academy, when he nearly kills his superior in a mock car chase. As fate would have it, Hank mistakes Earl to be a car burglar when Earl is trying to break into his own car, as he accidentally locked his keys inside. Tempers go out of proportion till a bumblebee arrives on the scene, which Earl is allergic to. With good intentions, Hank tries to swat the bee with his nightstick. Unfortunately, a bystander captures the entire scene on video at a very different angle, giving people the idea that Hank is a racist cop brutally beating Earl.
Hank is then thrown off the force, and serves six months in jail, only to end up working for the National Security Agency as a security guard. It seems that destiny wants these two together, however, when Hank and Earl both end up working together on an investigation involving a warehouse robbery where Earl was posted as a guard. Both, Earl and Hank have their own personal reasons to pursue this "case", Hank to avenge the death of his partner and Earl to prove that he can be a good cop.
The storyline is fairly average and quite clichéd. This odd-couple routine has already been done a million times, having been started by Eddie Murphy in "48 Hours"The pacing is slipshod, with the storyline dragging to almost a standstill at certain places. The acting, too, is quite average, with only Steve Zahn coming close enough to being entertaining.This article was first published on 17 May 2003.