Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for language and adult themes
Run Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Kevin Costner turns in a fine performance in this passable actioner that treads the salty waters of the United States Coast Guard.
Costner is Senior Chief Ben Randall, the most decorated swimmer in the history of the USCG. When a tricky at-sea rescue goes fatally awry Ben gets cold feet and reluctantly accepts a position training the next wave of top guns in the Guard’s A-school.
Among the freshman plebes is an idealistic candidate determined to topple Randall’s high water marks. He’s Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), a cocky state swim champ with more attitude than brains.
The duo is oil and water from the get-go, relentlessly testing each other to the limits of their endurance and their patience. Not surprisingly the pair ultimately team up on a dangerous rescue mission, forced to defend each other’s lives with nautical know-how. Cue Poseidon’s violins.
Although “Guardian” lays down the clichés with a trowel and follows an all-too familiar pattern (think “Officer and a Gentleman”, “Top Gun”, etc.) the energetic performances and a neat twist at the end breath some life into an otherwise stale genre.
Kutcher’s arrogant swagger is positively delicious, oozing with youthful bonhomie. Costner lends the project some dignity by maintaining his steely cool at junctures both hackneyed and stirring.
There’s a better film here, buried in an excess of A-school training and misguided profundity that could have been trimmed by half an hour to allow for deeper character development and tighter scripting. But director Andrew Davis aims straight and true with his rescue scenes, churning ocean and emotion with a flair for good theater.