National Security [2003]

Although it's enjoyable as a brainless diversion, National Security is one of those forgettable entertainments that denies its own considerable potential. It's a police action comedy in the mold of Beverly Hills Cop, tailored to the buddy-flick formula and laced with racial tensions of the post-Rodney King era. It's set in Los Angeles, where dedicated cop Hank (Steve Zahn) does jail time for allegedly beating Earl (Martin Lawrence), whose only real assailant was an overzealous bumblebee. As fate and lazy screenwriting would have it, the two adversaries reunite as security guards, teaming up to crack a team of violent smugglers led by bleached-blonde Eric Roberts (further proof that this movie's got nothing new to offer). Routine stunts distract from the comedy's mostly untapped resource: Lawrence pointedly riffs on racial profiling, and his prolific ad-libs play well against Zahn's by-the-book straight man. If their partnership had been allowed to develop more believably, National Security might have been more than a blip on the box-office radar. --Jeff Shannon

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