**1/2 (out of 5)
September 29, 2006
Kevin Costner as BEN RANDALL
Ashton Kutcher as JAKE FISCHER
Sela Ward as HELEN RANDALL
Clancy Brown as CAPT. WILLIAM HADLEY
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Directed by: Andrew Davis
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Brace yourself, folks. It’s time for another Kevin Costner movie.
This time, instead of playing a washed-up baseball star, this washed-up actor is playing a washed-up Coast Guard rescuer. After losing his entire squad in a freak accident in the Gulf of Alaska, Coster’s character of Ben Randall is demoted to a teaching position. He’s training new cadets, one of which is Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), the hot-shot of the bunch.
Randall rides Fischer hard, trying to make sure he has what it takes to jump out of helicopters and save people on the high seas. Over the course of Randall’s unorthodox training, the two form a bond and become colleagues and friends.
The best way I can describe “The Guardian” is the Coast Guard version of “An Officer and a Gentleman,” although I doubt this film will be remembered as fondly. It’s your basic military training film, with the bulk of the movie focusing on Fischer’s journey to become a rescuer. On this level, the movie pushes the right buttons and has all the elements you’d expect from a training film – lots of yelling, physical challenges and the obligatory “I’ve got nowhere else to go!” moment.
Part of the problem with “The Guardian” is that the filmmakers just couldn’t’ decide who the movie was about. On one hand, it focused heavily on Costner’s character, who is getting a divorce because his job always came before his marriage. On the other hand, it focuses on Kutcher’s character, who is forming a relationship with a townie and harboring a secret reason for being in the Coast Guard.
Perhaps this cinematic schizophrenia isn’t so bad because neither character is really strong enough to carry the film as a whole. The movie also splits its time between the training cycle and a beginning and ending showing Fischer and Randall as Coast Guard rescuers.
To be honest, I went into this movie not expecting a whole lot. I was pleasantly surprised, leading me to believe that I need to approach all movies with low expectations. That doesn’t mean this is a tremendous film, but it does mean that it won’t disappoint if you don’t aim too high.
“The Guardian” rises above some recent military training films like “Jarhead” and “Annapolis.” It’s directed by Andrew Davis, who directed “The Fugitive.” While the movie has some of the flavor of this Harrison Ford classic, it’s really more like Davis’ lesser movies like “Chain Reaction” and “Collateral Damage.”
When it comes to Kevin Costner films, it usually works best if he isn’t the hero, and in “The Guardian,” he really isn’t. If anything, he’s a bit of the antagonist trying to knock Ashton Kutcher off his game. This works in Costner’s favor because his days of playing the sexy hero are long gone.
“The Guardian” also should hold something special if you or a family member were part of the Coast Guard. My father-in-law served in the Coast Guard during the 1960s, and he’s fond of reminding all of us of this fifth branch of the U.S. armed forces. Additionally, anyone who has spent time in Alaska will appreciate the scenery.
Ultimately though, “The Guardian” is one of those middle-of-the-road movies that works to a degree but doesn’t knock your socks off. You can do a lot worse in the multiplex, and it’s not a bad date movie.