When I first heard the title THE GUARDIAN, I was expecting a
remake of a tidy little horror movie from 1990 about a nanny who forms
a special attachment to the child in her care. Instead, it turns out that
this is about the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers. Since virtually every
other rescue worker has been immortalized in some movie or other, it
came as something of a surprise to learn that this was the first film
to document these brave men and women. Screenwriter Ron L. Brinkerhoff
has framed the film as a sort of generational passing of the torch and
as such, the movie only works intermittently. One cannot help but
wish that a better tribute to the Coast Guard could have been made.

  Kevin Costner stars as veteran Ben Randall who puts his job first
above all else, including his marriage. (Sela Ward portrays his wife.) He
responds to an emergency call and things go horribly awry: Randall is the
only survivor of his team. After a recovery time and haunted by the
deaths of his coworkers, he is assigned to teach at the elite training
program. His unorthodox methods are met with some skepticism from
the officers and from the recruits.

  One of the students is Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), an arrogant
swimming champ who is convinced he will be the best rescue swimmer
and sets out to break the school records, many of which were
coincidentally set by Randall. If you've ever seen another movie, you
know that Fischer and Randall have more in common (which is why they
seem to take an instant dislike to one another, although the audience
knows better.)

  Directed by Andrew Davies,
THE GUARDIAN suffers from being
badly paced. The film is overlong and liberally utilizes aspects of other
similarly themed movies. Characters come and go at random, except for
the two leads and their respective romantic interests. (Melissa Sagemiller
portrays a schoolteacher who falls for Kutcher's recruit.) Only Neal
McDonough as one of the other instructors manages to make an

  What makes the film watchable, though, is the performance of
Kevin Costner. After a period in the 1990s when he became insufferable,
he has settled into an intriguing point in his career. After his wonderful
supporting turn in
THE UPSIDE OF ANGER -- in which he displayed little
vanity -- he tackles this role with the same verve and gusto and gives
audiences the only real reason to see

          Rating:                C-
          MPAA Rating:        PG-13 for intense sequences of action/peril,              
                                               brief strong language and some
          Running time:       139 mins.

                  Viewed at the AMC Empire 25

The Guardian (2006)
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.