Retro Review: The Guardian

There have been at least a thousand different films about arrogant rookies who endure basic training and make their new commanding officer proud.

We have had army, air force and marines but has their ever been one about US Coast Guard? Furthermore, do we need one?

The Guardian stars Kevin Costner as Ben Randall, a grizzled veteran of the Coast Guard who has developed a lengthy and infamous career as a rescue swimmer. Swimmers are the men we see jumping out of helicopters to help address the situation in the water before a victim is rescued by the helicopter.

One night, Randall has a rescue go horrifically wrong and the incident forces his commander, Capt. William Hadley (Clancy Brown) to send Randall to the Academy to train new swimmers. Randall feels crippled and to make matters worse his estranged wife, Helen (Sela Ward) leaves him.

In Randall’s first class, a new upstart Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher) beckons to break all Randall’s records and yearns to become the greatest swimmer the Academy has ever seen.

As basic training continues, Randall’s “no-holds-barred” training ruffles a lot of feathers with his fellow teachers and the cadets. However, Fischer is relentless.

Can Randall break Fischer? What is Fischer’s secret? Will Ben Randall ever get over the incident?

‘The Guardian’ is directed by Andrew Davis whose long career in Hollywood has spawned a lot of memorable action films. Davis’s first film that really established him as an up-incoming director was ‘Code of Silence’ which still stands as one of Chuck Norris’s strongest films from the mid 1980s.

He was responsible for introducing us to Steven Seagal in ‘Above the Law’ and for the very under-rated action film ‘The Package’ with Gene Hackman in the late 1980s. The early 1990s found Davis re-teaming with Seagal for ‘Under Siege’ which is still Seagal’s best film to date. Finally in 1993, Davis directed his most famous film when he re-imagined the classic TV series ‘The Fugitive’ with Harrison Ford.

After the Fugitive, it seems that Davis lost his way. All his movies post-Fugitive were overly long, cliched and disasters at the box office. He found some redemption when he directed the family film, ‘Holes’ which rejuvenated his struggling career and showed that Davis wasn’t a one genre director. Sadly, ‘The Guardian’ will not be his return to fine form in the action genre.

The film is solidly directed and has fine performances from both Kutcher and Costner but like so many Davis films before it, the film suffers the same curse as his recent track record.

The film feels like it could have ended at least six times. This film could have easily lost 30-40 minutes in the editing room.

I liked the open sea sequences which were ripe with intensity and danger. The Academy scenes were stable but nothing really new was explored. At times it felt like an instructional presentation on the Coast Guard.

I also felt that the film never allowed any of the supporting characters to materialize as anything more than tools to tell the overly long and drawn out story.

The perfect example of wasted screen time was Sela Ward playing the estranged wife, yet again. I really love Ward and always hoped she would find that plum role that would work but it seems as if she did all her great performances on TV.

I wanted this to be a showcase to what Davis gave us back in the early 90s but instead he seems to lack confidence. I think what would help Davis a lot would to be find a skilled editor who can make his films clean, sleek and under 140 minutes.

3 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

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