This Top Gun remake is all wet.
The Guardian is the story of aging Coast Guard rescue swimmer Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) and Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), the young hotshot who wants to be handed his torch. It also sucks.
As the movie starts off, old salt Randall is the best of the best, devoted heart and soul to his job that requires him to routinely jump out of helicopters into the Bering Sea to save people in peril. Then his wife Helen (Sela Ward) leaves him and he loses his crew in an accident, and post-traumatic stress disorder sets in. The Coast Guard ships him off to Louisiana to teach the new class of would-be swimmers while he recuperates. Enter Fischer, the cocky high-school swim champ who wants to break all of Randall's records. Swimming fast is all well and good, but does Fischer have what it takes to save others?
Initially, The Guardian is merely underwhelming. The story is predictable, the dialogue is cliché, and although it's been a good 20 years since Top Gun came out, it still feels like a rip off. Seriously, just because it's wetsuits and not fly-suits doesn't make it different. Kutcher (That 70's Show; Dude, Where’s My Car?) can be as cute and long and lean as he wants, but no amount of push-ups and devilish cleft-chin grins are going to masquerade as acting talent. And if Costner (Dances With Wolves, Field of Dreams) plays one more aging athlete-hero I may actually try to drown myself.
But still, for the first nearly 2 hours (oh yes, it is 2 hours and 16 minutes long) it is still trucking along as a solid C+. And then, suddenly and spectacularly, The Guardian amps itself up for the third act (you know, the part where Maverick and Ice finish flight school and get their shot at a real mission), and morphs into something monstrously, epically terrible. So excruciating, in fact, that I proceeded to start screaming at the television and biting my sofa to endure the agony. It was pollution.
Shall I try to find something good to say about this movie? It's hard. Some of the rescue scenes have some good tension, but most of them are obviously shot in a tank. And I’m sure the tank was an expensive Hollywood feat, but still--I shouldn't know it's a tank. All in all, the harrowing job of the Coast Guard rescue swimmers is a heroic one, and should be fertile ground for a good movie. And with the pedigree that director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, A Perfect Murder) has, it should have been one.
What’s on the Disc:
There are plenty of extras on The Guardian guaranteed to feel like corporal punishment.
You can watch the alternate ending, in case the original horrid one isn't enough torture for you. There are several deleted scenes (with and without commentary), of which there ought to have been many more. And shut-ins with an unending amount of time on their hands can also watch the movie again with the audio commentary by the writer and director, but I'm not sure why you'd want to.
The featurettes, on the other hand, are actually interesting. "The Guardian: Making Waves" is about the making of the movie, and "Unsung Heroes: So Others May Live" is about real Coast Guard swimmers and some of their experiences in Hurricane Katrina.