The Guardian

(2006) ** Pg-13
139 min. Touchstone Pictures. Director: Andrew Davis. Cast: Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher, Neal McDonough, Melissa Sagemiller, Clancy Brown.

The Guardian, about the heroic sacrifice of the U.S. Coast Guard, is pure Hollywood hokum, the sort of picture the Duke might star in today. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Aside from lazy screenwriting. Kevin Costner plays the tired Coast Guard vet unsure if he wants to be the mentor at the elite training school for Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers; Ashton Kutcher plays his cocky top student.

Even though the Coast Guard is essentially a stand-in for the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy Seals of so many training-to-action dramas, the mostly unplumbed Coast Guard milieu supplies some novelty—particularly the specific training regime and specialized operations—but to enjoy it, we must sort through an awful lot of old hats. With the exception of a Good Will Hunting psychological subplot, the dramatic beats come mostly from the 1980s: snazzy "by air and by sea" action, token romance, and a finale with enough inspiration and pathos to make even the most macho eye leak.

Director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) demonstrates customary competence but fails to trim excess fat. In turn for his subject's full cooperation (a no-brainer), Davis dutifully celebrates the Coast Guard's contribution to Katrina rescues. Costner's gracefully world-weary performance makes The Guardian bearable, but the film's memory will go out with the tide and, most likely, never return.

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