Directed by Dennis Dugan, starring Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn, Colm Feore, Bill Duke, Eric Roberts.

There's good films and there's bad films and then there's obnoxious, racist should-never-have-been-made-let-alone-released films. 'National Security' falls fair and square into the latter category. Although ostensibly in the mis-matched buddie action-comedy genre, there's something far more disturbing going on under the surface.

Earl (Lawrence) is a wanna-be policeman who gets kicked out of the LAPD training programme for his over the top behaviour. After white cop Hank (Zahn) mistakenly tries to stop him from breaking into a car, Earl falsely accuses him of police brutality. Hank rapidly loses his badge, six months of his freedom and his black girlfriend. When he comes out of prison he takes a job as a security guard (equipment: "Flash light, pepper spray and a holster full of quarters to call the police") and ends up partnered with Earl as they try to track down a gang of criminals.

Hank's angry - understandably - at having his life destroyed over a false accusation but Earl is unrepentant, blackmailing Hank with the threat of putting him behind bars again unless they work together. Cue a series of bang-crash-wallops and interminable gun battles amidst Coca-Cola/Sprite product placement and the ubiquitous Eric Roberts as an indifferent villian.

As the put-upon Hank, Steve Zahn comes across sympathetically. Martin Lawrence, on the other hand, must have forgotten to read the script before he committed to 'National Security'. Portraying African-Americans as devious losers, too ready to reinforce prejudice by playing the race card surely cannot be seen as seen as an intelligent career - or social - move. Not only that, but Earl is also the most racist character in the entire film, denouncing inter-racial relationships - but only if it's a white man with a black woman.

When the funniest line in the whole film is "didn't your mama teach you some manners when you were humping her?", you know you're in the wrong cinema.

Caroline Hennessy