We all know the process by heart: Take one part An Officer and a Gentleman , mix in elements of Armageddon and place your story in a new and exciting setting. In this case, that would be the world of the Coast Guard rescue swimmer. (Though even that falls to cliché, as these guys are – wait for it – the “best of the best.”)
This is the type of story that almost writes itself, and doesn't take much by way of direction to make it adequate by BS standards. And director Andrew Davis ( Holes , Collateral Damage ) certainly does an adequate job.
So, all that's left are the stunts and the casting. Luckily, The Guardian gets those pretty right.
Kevin Costner, for once allowed to look his age (but in a good way), plays Ben Randall, a legendary rescuer who still holds records of all kinds. His single-minded dedication to his job in the frigid waters of Alaska, has driven away his wife (Sela Ward, welcome even in this thankless role).
Then “something very, very bad” happens on a mission. So, Ben heads off to Louisiana to teach at the Coast Guard Academy's elite “A School,” where he can recover both physically and emotionally. He is immediately tested, however, by cocky rescue trainee Jake Fischer.
Ashton Kutcher steps up in this role of the swaggering hotshot, a champion swimmer who vows to shatter the records set by Randall. Jake has “a gift,” you see, which he knows all too well. He's all sass and charm (but in a good way).
And, darn if there isn't a smoking-hot local gal (Melissa Sagemiller) determined not to get involved with any of the cadets who cycle through the military town. She distracts Jake from his training, which doesn't sit well with Ben. So goes the battle of wills, and brawn, between these two – the older mentor and his destined-to-be replacement.
A likable cast of secondary characters rounds out the middle portion of the film. This part of the story is actually quite enjoyable, filled with scenes of watery challenges and student bonding, with a good dose of humor sprinkled throughout.
Unfortunately though, The Guardian doesn't stop there. It's got possibly one of the worst, most derivative endings out of BS Hollywood this year (hint: Recall the two films cited above). Consider ditching the last 15 minutes or so. But if you do stay, and you leave the theater with a headache from all that eye-rolling, then don't say you weren't warned.Grade: C