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STUDIO: Touchstone Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 139 minutes
• Commentary featuring director and writer
• Deleted scenes
• Alternative ending
• “Unsung Heroes” tribute to real-life Coast Guard rescuers
• The making of The Guardian
Firemen aren’t the only average Joe hero types that desire atrocious movies in their honor.
Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher, Melissa Sagemiller, Clancy Brown, Neal McDonough, Sela Ward
Ben Randall is the best rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard. He’s so good that he could single-handedly save a burning sloop full of baby seals. Of course, he can’t be the best forever, and it takes the unsurprising death of his entire crew for Ben to realize that. He’s crushed. Naturally, he starts drinking alone (Thanks for the sponsorship, Wild Turkey!) and having nightmares. Unable to cope with the loss, Ben is forced to take a teaching job at "A" School, where the elite in the Coast Guard go to train. Now Ben must teach assholes like Ashton Kutcher to be the best so that one day he can heroically sacrifice himself to make them cry.
"But I still don’t even know your name."
"Oh, just call me unneccessary subplot A."
There’s something very familiar about The Guardian. Maybe that’s the point of the movie. It’s a tribute to or it’s just a retread of better films. The only difference is locations and professions. If the main characters were changed to firefighters in any particular town, the story would only need some very minor tweaks. It could have been a cop movie, if the producers wanted that. The Guardian is a fine example of movie paint-by-numbers.
All of your favorite clichés are here for the ride. Costner has a troubled marriage. The only person he can’t save is himself. As he begins the training course, he’s a hardass, but later we see that his extreme measures are only because he wants his recruits to succeed. Then there’s Kutcher. He’s cocky and out spoken because he’s the best in the class. He could be a one-note character, but then with the power of an armless boxer, the viewer is delivered the old tragic past angle. The clichés don’t stop there. Costner and Kutcher stop butting heads after they are involved in a fight at a Navy bar. There’s also a cadet who may or may not have what it takes to graduate from "A" School. Plus, Bryan Adams delivers a shot to the man section with a ballad during the credits. On top of all that, there’s still some room left for an old, advice dispensing bartender. The bartender even gives a speech at the one hour mark that not so subtly reveals the finale.
That’s right! I said the S.S. Hooters just issued a distress!
The Coast Guard as subject matter hasn’t been covered too extensively in film. There are probably hundreds of very heroic and true stories that should have been told over this one. Too much of the time is spent on the cadets’ training. Devin mentioned in his spot-on (the Waterworld reference especially) review that the whole movie is basically set in a pool. This setting takes away any real danger in the proceedings. All of these scenes last far too long. I’d have no problem with the training sequences taking up much of the running time, if they built up a great bond between Costner and Kutcher. I never once believed that these two could become friends.
To keep the ladies interested, Kutcher is given a love interest. The filmmakers don’t really commit enough time to make this relationship believable. They are only given a few scenes together and then the audience is expected to make a leap of faith with this relationship in the final scene. Less of the training and more attempts at character moments, moments where Kutcher could lighten up, were needed. It’s unfortunate. He’s somewhat likeable in his scenes with Melissa Sagemiller. Every other time he’s on screen he has to be serious, and this is not where his appeal or talents lie. Stick to your strengths next time, just avoid Bernie Mac.
There are some talented actors wasted in this film. Costner gives a good performance, better than the movie deserves. Nice to see that he hasn’t hit the level of Harrison Ford, phoning in every performance. Sela Ward is nothing more than a manipulative device. As Costner’s wife, her only use is to make his death seem more tragic. John Heard and Neal McDonough play the same roles they always seem to play. The great Clancy Brown is around, but suffers from a lack of brain bugs in the picture.
Lose the glasses son. This isn’t Top Gun and you aren’t Tom Cruise.
A very good movie could have come out of this premise. Clichés can sometimes be alright. If only the movie was a rip roaring 90 minutes, then it might have been an exciting little flick. It might have had a chance. However, this film plods along at 139 minutes. It’s frustrating to watch a good opportunity squandered so badly.
You won’t find any groundbreaking special features on this disc. It’s fitting. A very standard commentary featuring director, Andrew Davis, and Ron Brinkerhoff, the film’s writer, is included. "The Guardian: Making Waves" is a basic behind the scenes puff piece most likely found on Starz. "Unsung Heroes," a micro-documentary about real-life rescue swimmers is too short to be any good. There is the potential for hours of interesting interviews and footage, but filming that would upstage the feature presentation. It might even entertain its audience. That could be dangerous.
An alternative ending is included that gives the film a merrier resolution. It would have been a much more ballsy move to let Costner live. Not many people would have seen that one coming. I would have loathed the movie marginally less if the ending wasn’t so damn predictable. I can understand the filmmakers seeing this ending as a copout, then again, these same people were dumb enough to think hitting every cliché in the book was good for the movie. There are four deleted scenes, all of which would have made a long movie even longer. If you really are dying to know what happened to the female cadet that disappears halfway through the movie, hurry out and buy this DVD. Afterwards, hit yourself in the head with a hammer. Check for a hollow sound.
Here’s a visual aid just in case you didn’t feel like reading the review.