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Bigger Picture



12 National Security (2003)
Reviewed by Jamie Russell
updated 17th March 2003

reviewer's rating
one star



Director

Dennis Dugan
Writer

Jay Scherick
David Ronn
Stars

Martin Lawrence
Steve Zahn
Colm Feore
Bill Duke
Eric Roberts
Length

88 minutes
Distributor

Columbia TriStar
Cinema

21st March 2003
Country

USA
Genre

Action
Comedy
Web Links

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On the basis of this ill-conceived comedy vehicle, it's pretty obvious that Martin Lawrence isn't destined to be the future idol of a) law enforcement, b) Hollywood comedies or c) the American Civil Liberties Union.

Instead, he's more likely to be hauled up on charges of racism, stupidity, and a total lack of common sense.

Wannabe cop Earl (Martin Lawrence) is booted out of the police academy for being too confrontational, and takes a job with National Security.

After being stopped by white copper Hank (Steve Zahn), Earl decides to get some payback and falsely accuses Hank of beating him Rodney King-style.

Hank loses his badge, his (black) girlfriend, and his life. After a spell trying not to pick up the soap behind bars, he ends up working for National Security where he's partnered with (yep, you guessed it), the completely unrepentant Earl.

So, is it an ironic parody of American race relations between whites and African-Americans? Certainly not.

Is it a thoroughly offensive attempt to disguise a reactionary view of African-Americans as manipulative, self-serving, serial complainers as "comedy"? Definitely.

Give or take a few mouthfuls of fried chicken, Lawrence's lazy, stupid, sexually voracious hero is a throwback to the African-American stereotypes of 30s Hollywood - where performers like Stepin Fetchit and Mantan Moreland ruled.

This means that either the star is too dense to recognise racial stereotyping when he sees it. Or maybe he just has too many dollar signs kerchinging in his eyes to care.

And if that weren't enough, scriptwriters Jay Scherick and David Ronn (who penned the far superior "I-Spy") even turn the tables on Lawrence. They make him not only the butt of the script's racism, but a racist himself as he denounces interracial marriages and harps on about his hatred of poor old whitey.

When comedies are this insidious, you have to take them seriously.




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