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Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher star in THE GUARDIAN, the powerful, action-packed drama that takes you inside the never-before-seen world of the elite Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers. Reeling with grief in the wake of a mission gone tragically wrong, legendary Rescue Swimmer Ben Randall Costner is given a mission he doesn’t want — training raw recruits. Once there, he knocks heads with cocky Jake Fischer Kutcher, a swimming champ driven by a painful secret, who’s more interested in breaking Ben’s records than saving lives. But Ben also sees Jake has what it takes to be the best of the best. Filled with spectacular rescues in the lethal waters of the Bering Sea, THE GUARDIAN is a riveting and compelling story that dives straight into the heart and soul of real heroes, the unsung guardians of the sea.
The Guardian offers satisfying entertainment with a no-nonsense combination of Hollywood formula and good old-fashioned star power. While honoring the men and women who serve as rescue swimmers for the U.S. Coast Guard, this predictable yet appealing drama is a well-crafted showcase for Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher, who bring welcome depth and dimension to their formulaic roles. It's basically Top Gun for the Coast Guard, with Costner playing a legendary rescuer haunted by recent tragedy and the impending break-up of his marriage, and Kutcher as the hot-shot recruit whose bravado is tested when Costner takes over a grueling 18-week basic training course, where a 50% attrition rate ensures that only the best will make the grade. There's nothing particularly inventive about Ron L. Brinkerhoff's screenplay, but it's intelligently written and well-directed by The Fugitive helmer Andrew Davis as it shows how seasoned veteran and troubled but talented trainee build mutual respect while sorting through the trauma of accidents that left each of them as sole survivors, tormented by self-doubt and guilt.
Bolstered by a strong supporting cast including Neal McDonough, John Heard, Sela Ward and Clancy Brown, The Guardian is a bit on the long side 137 minutes, but it never feels slow, and a romantic subplot with Kutcher wooing a schoolteacher played by Melissa Sagemiller blends nicely with thrilling ocean-rescue sequences incorporating a seamless blend of CGI and footage shot in a 750,000-gallon water tank. Music fans will welcome the scene-stealing appearance of veteran singer Bonnie Bramlett as the owner of a jazz/blues club near the training base, where The Guardian serves up yet another staple of its genre: the barroom brawl. Although Hurricane Katrina prevented The Guardian from being filmed in New Orleans in 2005, real-life footage during the closing credits makes it clear that the Coast Guard was essential in Katrina's aftermath, and this rousing drama pays overdue tribute to those who risk there lives to quote the Coast Guard's motto "so that others may live." --Jeff Shannon