Yep, it’s a soggy Top Gun . Or perhaps, more accurately, a watered-down version of An Officer And A Gentleman , with Kevin Costner as Lou Gosset’s crusty training instructor and Ashton Kutcher challenging for Richard Gere’s slot as the cocky star who needs to become a team player, goddammit! There’s even a romance with local girl Emily (Melissa Sagemiller) to justify the ‘Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong’ tearjerker finale.
Anyone diving for a single original idea during this movie is going to come up empty-handed, but is that really such a bad thing? Sure, you’ll be able to tell, from the moment that Costner first locks eyes with Kutcher and sneeringly labels him ‘Goldfish’, exactly how the rest of the film is going to pan out. But then again, the familiarity is half the fun. The Fugitive director Andrew Davis accepts he has no plot-surprise ammunition and so concentrates instead on ramping up The Guardian ’s guilty-pleasure mechanics to maximum revs.
An ill-advised chunk of tragic backstory for Kutcher’s character aside, the narrative doesn’t miss a step as it double-times through familiar paces. A sly wit undercuts the ‘Best Of The Best’ posturing. The training sequences, which show Costner carving the class down to less than half its original size, are efficient, and the actual rescues out on the open water are genuinely nerve-jangling... especially when the giant, Perfect Storm-style CG waves start crashing around some tiny, tiny boats.
Costner’s hardly stretching himself as the grizzled old-timer but still flicks on the star dazzle when he has to. Kutcher, meanwhile, is running at full power throughout. Normally one of the world’s most irritating actors, once the cracks start to form over Fischer’s smug shell, he actually manages something close to likeable.
A big, balls-out action drama, The Guardian is anything but wet behind the ears. You may have seen it all before but it’s certainly been done worse. And as a bonus, there’s a real chemistry between Kutcher and Kev. We’re not suggesting they move in together, but a repeat buddy-pic team-up doesn’t seem that much of a stretch...
The plot splashes about in the shallows, but Costner and Kutcher spark and the action is confident enough to smother the flaws.