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Awesome: 2.5%
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Just Average60%
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4 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Guardian, The (2006)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Starts Like "Officer and a Gentleman" And Ends Like "The Neverending Story"
3 stars

The good news about the inspirational adventure film “The Guardian” is that it manages to transcend its essential cheesiness, despite a few rough spots here and there, in order to provide viewers with 110 minutes of relatively solid action and drama anchored by a couple of performances that are better than you might expect. The bad news is that the film then goes on for another 25 minutes as it offers up one ending after another in an increasingly desperate attempt to wrap things up. As a result, even the most indulgent viewers are likely to wind up tuning out long before the end credits finally begin to roll.

Kevin Costner stars as Ben Randall, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer so proficient and revered that he barely seems able to function out of the water–he can easily save one troubled marriage, at least in a metaphorical sense, by saving a couple from drowning in a storm at sea but is unable to do the same on dry land with his own union with estranged wife Helen (Sela Ward). After another rescue attempt ends in the death of the rest of his crew and leaves him psychologically unable to get back into the water, Ben is pulled from active duty and sent to Louisiana to teach rescue swimming to a new batch of recruits at a Coast Guard training center. Among his charges is Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), a hotshot trainee who brashly announces to everyone on his very first day that he plans on breaking all the various speed and endurance records for the base–not the most tactful thing in the world since a.) they are all held by Ben and b.) Ben is standing right behind him while he is announcing this.

You probably won’t be shocked to discover that Ben and Jake, after initially butting heads, grow to develop respect for each other over time. You probably won’t be shocked to discover that Jake eventually learns to stop looking out only for himself in order to become the kind of team player that makes for the best rescue swimmer. You probably won’t be shocked to discover that Jake has a past personal tragedy in his life that has driven him to become a rescue swimmer. You probably won’t be shocked to discover that Ben will learn to overcome his own personal demons in order to get back into the drink. And even if every element that I have listed above has come as a total surprise to you, you probably won’t be shocked to discover that the climax of the film involves Ben and Jake teaming up in an effort to save the day during an especially harrowing rescue attempt.

As you can tell from even just a brief summary, “The Guardian” is pretty much a Frankenstein’s monster of a film stitched together from pieces taken from any number of earlier works–there is a little bit of “An Officer and a Gentleman” and a whole lot of “Ladder 49,” to name only two. That said, whatever the film lacks in originality or straightforwardness (screenwriter Ron Brinkerhoff could have easily dropped the characters of Costner’s estranged wife and Kutcher’s local love interest, played by Melissa Sagemiller, and no one would have missed them), it makes up for in sheer skill and professionalism. It has been directed by Andrew Davis, whose career has been somewhat uneven in the years since he hit it big with the one-two punch of “Under Siege” and “The Fugitive” (of course, if you want to launch into a passionate defense of the likes of “Chain Reaction” or “Collateral Damage,” knock yourself out), and it is probably the best thing that he has done since then–the action scenes are fairly spectacular and, aside from a few moments that veer off into sheer mawkishness, the dramatic scenes are also pretty good as well. A lot of the credit for the latter should also go to the two stars–Costner is strong and sure in the kind of gruff and no-nonsense loner role that he has often excelled at and while Kutcher has his less-than-spectacular moments here and there (the big emotional scene in which he reveals his deep, dark secret smacks a little too closely of high-school theatrics), he makes for an interesting foil for Costner and shows that he can do more than simply play the stoner goofball.

And yet, all the good work done in the first three-fourths of “The Guardian” is undone by a messy and confused final act that offers up more endings than “Clue” in an effort to wrap things up. It feels as if Davis was unsure of how to end his film, shot a whole bunch of different finales and then inexplicably decided to use all of them. Under normal circumstances, this would be off-putting enough but it is especially ruinous here because the first of the conclusions is by far the best–a nice bit that wraps up all the important plot strands in a refreshingly low-key manner that emphasizes the human drama over pyrotechnics. Apparently, it was too low-key for some people because it then launches into an over-the-top set-piece in which everything is as melodramatic as can be and while it is technically impressive, it lacks the grace of the previous ending. That said, it is still preferable to the ludicrous final finale, a queer duck of a scene that tries to add an unnecessary hint of fantasy to an otherwise realistic film and winds up nearly transforming the film into an odd prequel to Costner’s previous water-based epic, “Waterworld.”

Because it so thoroughly goes off the rails in the final half-hour, I cannot quite find my way around to recommending “The Guardian.” This is a bit of a shame because it does contain many worthwhile elements scattered throughout that are unfortunately undone by those rambling final reels. You know how a lot of movies comes out on DVD these days in so-called Director’s Cuts that add in several minutes of previously deleted footage? If Davis ever gets the chance to do something along those lines here, here’s hoping that he decides to instead remove the several minutes at the end that probably should have been deleted in the first place.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15249&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/29/06 00:23:47
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User Comments

4/10/10 David Brilliant, I really enjoyed it. Will buy my own copy. 5 stars
1/16/09 Aesop I expected a yawner, but Costner and Kutcher both impress. 4 stars
10/12/07 mb Interesting, OK. 4 stars
3/27/07 Monday Morning Like Top Gun with boats instead of planes, but still a pretty good yarn. 4 stars
3/22/07 MP Bartley Refreshingly unpretentious and old fashioned action yarn. Costner as sincere as always. 4 stars
3/15/07 Matt A shade overlong, but well made, engrossing, and better than the critics like to rate it. 4 stars
2/15/07 Michaelb1478 Great Movie but waaaaaay tooo loooong 4 stars
1/26/07 action movie fan great coast guard training moments and heroism--story a bit melodramatic-still uplifting 4 stars
11/29/06 Mert like "topgun", i mean cliché; but good to pass the time with your girlfriend... 3 stars
11/18/06 Quigley Way too long. Could have been better. I didn't know Kevin Costner could act though 3 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Finally, a movie for the Coast Guard to jack off to. Generic and overlong, Costner tries. 3 stars
10/11/06 Bob Very Dull 2 stars
10/08/06 Mohobbit too much like Office and a Gentleman.but ok for Costner fans 3 stars
10/06/06 Michael Coovert Predictable; to me it was Armegedon in the water 3 stars
9/30/06 michael average and wait for the DVD 3 stars
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  29-Sep-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 23-Jan-2007



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