Friday, September 29, 2006

The Guardian

Directed by Andrew Davis

We've been through this drill many times. Young guy is cocky and thinks older, wiser guys are going to be immediately impressed with their skills, to the point of being able to get away with anything as they continue their risks on and off duty. And then the young guy gets the cocky beaten out of him until finally his potential is realized for the good of a team, or an army. That's pretty much what The Guardian is, but damn does it take a long time to fulfill it's formulaic destiny.

We focus on Ben Randall (Kevin Costner), who is one of those legendary Coast Guard guys who have saved hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who have gotten into big trouble on the high seas. He's so good at his job that he thinks he should be out there all the time, which dissolves his marriage to Helen (Sela Ward, who between this and The Fugitive may still not have one full length of screen time under Davis). Then a high-risk mission ends the life of his friend and partner, and the Coast Guard wants him to "get back into shape" by teaching a new crop of Guard hopefuls, including Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), the aforementioned badass who needs a lesson or two. Randall's teaching, in accordance with all teaching in any movie ever, is unconventional.

Audiences might very well indeed get wrapped up in some of the events of this motion picture, but it's so. very. long. The reason why anyone would fault length is that the pacing is wrong, and this movie may be the all-time clinical definition of bad pacing. The beginning never seems to begin, the ending never seems to end, and in the middle is a bunch of scenes that don't seem to go together or are tacked on. For instance, there is one scene in this movie that is basically there just so the audience can go, "Hell, yeah!" It is completely undeserved. There's a scene where we're supposed to get the idea that Fischer and the remaining hopefuls are finally getting together to work as a team, but then it ends abruptly. There's a section that looks like a Coast Guard recruitment video that is way out of place to the rest of the movie.

And much, much more like that. Fischer also has a love interest, Emily (Melissa Sagemiller) and this drags the movie down even more--there's no sense that this drives Fischer in any way, or that his relationships might be affected in the same way as Randall's. And then that ending, or lack of ever ending--we have to go through tons more of Randall's pitfalls and abilities before the movie finally hits the credits.

Kutcher shows in two movies this weekend where he is better suited. In dramas, he can often seem like he's about to set up a joke as he did in "That 70's Show," so when his facial tics kick in it's hard to take him seriously even when he's crying. But in Open Season, that is where Kutcher obviously had some fun and is more comfortable. It's not to say he's absolutely terrible or anything--he can be quite decent, but his skills are in comedy and that's where he should stay. Costner is old dependable Costner, in full-on veteran mode as he was during the more serious scenes of Bull Durham. Andrew Davis--I don't know what happened to him after Under Siege and The Fugitive but he must have lost a respected editor along the way.


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