The film was released in January 2003 and went on to gross over $50 million worldwide at the box office. The film was shot at various locations in Greater Los Angeles, including Long Beach and Santa Clarita.
Two LAPD policemen Hank Rafferty (Zahn) and Charlie Reed (Timothy Busfield) investigate a warehouse heist and discover a gang of thieves, one of which kills Charlie before they escape.
Meanwhile, Earl Montgomery's (Lawrence) lifelong dream to become a police officer is thwarted when he flunks police academy. After being warned by Detective Frank McDuff (Colm Feore) that he will be fired for interfering with the investigation of Charlie's death, Hank crosses paths with Earl when Hank notices Earl trying to get into his car when he finds his keys locked inside. When Hank questions Earl, a bumblebee comes along, to which Earl is allergic. From afar, it appears as if Hank is brutalizing Earl while attempting to swap the bumblebee with his nightstick while a Latino man catches the incident on videotape. As a result, Hank is fired from the police force and charged with aggravated assault against Earl. He is sentenced to six months in prison.
After being released from prison, Hank takes a job as a security guard and continues to investigate Charlie's death. Noticing an alarm being tripped at a soda warehouse, Hank goes to investigate. Meanwhile, Earl, who happens to be working for the same security company, is on duty at the same warehouse, but is slacking off. Hank interrupts the heist, and a gunfight erupts with the thugs, during which Hank and Earl cross paths again. Though the rest of thugs get away, Hank recognizes the tattoo of the man who shot Charlie, whose name he learns is Nash (Eric Roberts).
One of the thieves drops a cell phone, which leads them to a semi truck rented by the killers. After finding a van, Earl and Hank drive it out of the truck but the van falls off the bridge onto a garbage barge. Inside the van are what look like ordinary beer kegs, but Hank has them examined by a friend who works at a foundry, who informs them that the kegs are actually made of an aerospace alloy, which is worth millions. Hank takes the van and the kegs to the house of his ex-girlfriend Denise (Robinne Lee). They broke up after Hank was arrested, and Hank orders Earl to tell Denise the truth about the "assault." Earl promises, but when he sees that Denise is an attractive black woman, he starts hitting on her, playing the victim again. She throws both of them out of the house. Earl runs back to Hank, just as they are both cornered by police, learning that they are wanted as suspects in the bridge shootout. After they manage to escape, Hank realizes that the thieves must have an inside man in the police department to help them frame the duo for the shootout.
That night, after tracing the van's owner to an address, Hank and Earl stake out the place, but Earl rushes inside on his own, where he is confronted by Nash. Hank manages to get Earl to safety, but Earl takes a bullet in the leg. When Hank takes Earl to Denise to get his wound treated (which turns out to be a graze), a bee flies into the house, and Earl runs for cover, making Denise realize that Hank's outlandish story about the "assault" on Earl was actually true. She slaps Earl for lying and imprisoning Hank and reconciles with Hank.
Based on something overheard from Nash, they follow him to a meeting at a Yacht Club and witness him talking to McDuff, who is revealed to be Nash's inside man. Hank and Earl share everything they know with their boss, Lieutenant Washington (Bill Duke), and then pretend to approach McDuff, offering to sell him back the "beer kegs" for $1 million. However, Nash overhears their plans and takes Washington hostage first. During the confrontation, Earl and Hank meet with McDuff, Nash and their men near the coast, rescuing Washington and accidentally starting a shootout, but the trio manage to kill or apprehend most of Nash's gang, including McDuff. During the shootout, Hank saves Earl's life by warning him about a gunman taking aim at him, getting shot himself in the process, but survives. Earl engages in a fight with Nash while a wounded Hank gets up. He kills Nash by dropping a crane load onto an unstable slab, catapulting him into the ocean.
Six months later, in honor of their heroic actions, Hank is reinstated in the LAPD and Earl is admitted to the force, and they are made partners a short time later. The two encounter a situation similar to where they met with a man apparently locked out of his car and help him out. Afterwards, they learn the car is in fact stolen and in stopping the man, Earl accidentally destroys the car.Martin Lawrence as Earl Montgomery
Steve Zahn as Hank Rafferty
Colm Feore as Detective Frank McDuff
Bill Duke as Lieutenant Washington
Eric Roberts as Nash
Timothy Busfield as Charlie Reed
Robinne Lee as Denise
Matt McCoy as D.A. Robert Barton
Brett Cullen as Heston
Mari Morrow as Lola
The main songs are:"Silly" - The Warden
"One of These Days" - Wu-Tang Clan
"95 South" - Cool Ade
"All Good? - De La Soul
"N.S.E.W." - Disturbing tha Peace
Fruko y Sus Tesos ("El Preso")
Graveyard Soldjas ("Don't Start None")
The Warden ("Silly")
Petey Pablo ("Blow Your Whistle")
De La Soul featuring Chaka Khan ("All Good")
Tracy ("One More Try")
Barry White ("Can't Get Enough Of Your Love Babe")
95 South ("Cool Ade (Extended Mix)")
Lil' O ("Ay Yo")
Bathgate ("Bump That")
Damian Valentine ("Revolution")
Disturbing Tha Peace ("N.S.E.W.")
The film was poorly received by critics, receiving a rating of 11% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 88 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads: "The action in National Security is mindless, while the humor says nothing insightful about racial issues."
Joe Leydon of Variety wrote that "Despite some tasty contributions from Lawrence and Zahn, too much of National Security has the bland flavor of microwaved leftovers." Tom Long of The Detroit News wrote that the movie was "loud, crass, dumb and then even dumber." John Monaghan of the Detroit Free Press highlighted what he saw as an "off-putting" racial subtext that made him unable to enjoy the movie.