In a surprising and daring career move, Martin Lawrence stars alongside Steve Zahn in the action buddy comedy “National Security.” All sarcasm aside, the humor in “Security” is akin to that of the previous joke, fairly obvious and stale at best.
Lawrence (“Black Knight”) and Zahn (“That Thing You Do”) play mismatched partners Earl Montgomery and Hank Rafferty. The former is a Los Angeles police academy reject who has always harbored a desire to be a cop. After he fails the police force training in grand fashion – destroying property and assaulting a training officer – Montgomery is forced into the employ of private company National Security. Rafferty is a policeman whose partner’s (Timothy Busfield, “Thirtysomething”) murder sends his life into disarray. Rafferty joins the same private security outfit following his discharge from the LAPD and six months in prison after being convicted of assaulting Montgomery.
The two men begrudgingly cooperate as partners when a robbery embroils them in a convoluted scheme to steal a precious alloy. Solving the caper also promises to resolve the mystery of who killed Rafferty’s partner … how pleasantly convenient.
Ignoring the film’s severely lackluster plot, “National Security” suffers from tepid chemistry between its two protagonists. While the two do not seem remote, their relationship suffers from generic, limiting writing. Zahn is relegated to straight-man duties, sporadically grimacing, scowling and yelling in response to Lawrence’s antics. This is an unfortunate misappropriation of his talent as he is usually much funnier in roles that require more quirks and greater nuance. Meanwhile, Lawrence has the lion’s share of jokes, though most of his comedic episodes are simply comprised of a loud yell or muttered retort. Some of the jokes hit the mark, but they are diluted in comedic value with better lines and gags lost in the m