Ahoy there matey! Fancy yerself a spot o' moving pictures this weekend? The Guardian ye say? Billions of blue blistering barnacles, I say. Arr, that there be cursed waters, me friend. All puns intended, of course.
Alright, alright, so I had some fun with faux sea man talk there. Let me have my fun, though, for I have watched a wretched film.
Well, to be fair, The Guardian does try. For about the first half hour or so, it actually looks like it might become a passable entertainer. Alas, it just squanders what little it had going for itself, and meanders its way to the long awaited end, in the process becoming a whimpering film.
An Officer And A Gentleman and Top Gun rolled into a sea barrel, and lots of swimming pools - that's all this film is, without the sass, style or coolness factor. The plot is something you've seen a lot of times before: Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) is a Coast Guard rescue swimmer who's considered the best, until his whole team is wiped out in a terrible accident, leaving him traumatized.
He is given a less strenuous task then - to teach a new group of rescue swimmers, among them being Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), an endlessly cocky and arrogant jock, who is trying to forget his past too.
Ben and Jake tussle, grimace at each other, and (later) bond with each other, getting to understand each other in the process. Yep, it's that kind of film. Thrown in the mix are Emily (Melissa Sagemiller), who Jake begins to fancy, and Helen (Sela Ward), Ben's wife who wants to divorce him as she can't take anymore of it. Soon enough, neither can you.
This is a formulaic film, that goes through the motions for the sake of it - nothing is particularly exciting about the plot or the characters. It largely boils down to Ben and Jake, and while the script has some depth for them (within a popcorn film milieu), the actors play it flat and uninspiring. Costner isn't too bad, really. He's actually kind of neat as the washed-up instructor, but somehow lacks the intensity for the more searing moments of doubt and terror over his past.
Kutcher plays his Jake in a manner that only Kutcher could - by killing off whatever was fun about it. He is great in the very few lighthearted moments, but his efforts to play a character with a "past" fall flat as he shows that he lacks the maturity to handle this role. He seems comfortless, and only his chemistry with Costner earns any saving points.
But deep characterization and intricate plotting are not what this film purports to have. It wants to be a fun, popcorn muncher of an action film. That is something it gets right in parts. The special effects are quite good, and the action adventure of the seas is thrilling, if not extraordinarily amazing. There is something to be said about a film that also makes good use of secondary characters to have some lighthearted moments and some bonding montages.
Sadly, the troubles are not over yet. There is a substantial time spent only in the training pools, and the action is relegated to being filler. That is mostly as the running time is over 2 hours and 15 minutes. Fat free entertainment, this is not.
Granted, it's not a terrible film, just rather flat, but why does a film as generic as this need to be this long? Instead of keeping you guessing about the ending, it will keep you guessing if there is an ending in sight at all.
Director Andrew Davis is the guy who made The Fugitive, and I am surprised he let the burgeoning and silly script by Ron L Brinkerhoff combined by some hubris in terms of production values run away with what could have been a very entertaining movie. This smells like lost opportunity right here.
If this had a better performance by just Kutcher, really - the rest of the supporting cast is quite good - had some more action and some less pondering, and was 45 minutes shorter, this could have been a cracker of an actioner. As it stands now, it's a film that tries, but ends up being a uninventive derivative of Top Gun and other films of its ilk. Watch it if you must, but don't say I didn't warn you.