THE GUARDIAN (Andrew Davis). 138 minutes. Opens Friday (September 29). For venues and times, see Movies, page 108. Rating: NN Rating: NN
This could've been a snappy look at the operations of U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers - the guys who jump out of helicopters to pull people from the open sea. But The Guardian 's been smothered in a tedious character drama about aging hotshot Randall ( Kevin Costner ) passing the torch to young hotshot Fischer ( Ashton Kutcher ), a story itself diluted by ponderous pacing and contrived conflict.
The result is a vastly overlong clunker that lacks a through line and thus drops dead every time it shifts gears.
Director Andrew Davis , whose previous credits include Steven Segal's best movie (Under Siege) and Arnold Schwarzenegger's second-worst one (Collateral Damage), vividly conveys the power of the ocean and the hopeless fragility of humans in its grip. That peril carries over nicely into the extensive training scenes already enlivened by funny dialogue and unusual situations.
But Davis's energy deserts him and he falls into soap-opera mode whenever the story turns to the Randall-Fischer rivalry, the former's failed marriage and the latter's budding romance. Even the simplest points -- and they're all simple -- get hammered down flat.
Costner does Randall in his low-key working-man mode (best seen in Bull Durham). But he also conveys an unexpected chilling malice in some of the training scenes. Kutcher is simply bland.