A C-worthy drama about sea rescue

Only Kevin Costner saves 'The Guardian' from sinking.

By , Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor

Hollywood is always on the prowl for new subjects, especially if the new material reminds audiences of old material. So it is with the new Kevin Costner-Ashton Kutcher vehicle "The Guardian."

Costner plays Ben Randall, a legendary member of the Coast Guard's elite Rescue Swimmers who, while recuperating physically and psychologically from an accident in which he lost his best friend, reluctantly agrees to train new recruits at a boot camp-style training school. Kutcher is cocky Jake Fischer, the school's best prospect, who has a secret in his past.

What we are watching is an amalgam of "From Here to Eternity," "An Officer and a Gentleman," "A Perfect Storm," and about a million other movies. Even though the Rescue Swimmers operation, only 20 years old, has never been dramatized before, it certainly doesn't feel that way.

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Director Andrew Davis, best known for "The Fugitive," knows how to do tumult, and the very first sequence is a sea-churning rescue operation that made me feel like I had just walked in on the trailer for the movie.

It was probably a mistake to begin so big, since everything that comes after, until the grand finale recap in Alaska's Bering Sea, seems anticlimactic.

And when the climax finally comes, it turns out there are at least four of them. This is the kind of movie that seems to end over and over again. Just as you're rising in your seat to leave, another coda is tacked on.

The only performance worth watching is Costner's. Now that he seems resigned to being something less than an A-list luminary, he is often modest and affecting.

In films such as "Open Range" and "The Upside of Anger," he had an easy grace that recalled his early, best work in "Bull Durham" and "Field of Dreams." Playing a hard-boiled, hard-drinking pro with a marriage on the rocks and a young upstart yapping at his heels is not exactly a stretch for him.

But sometimes the best thing an actor can do is to stop stretching and stand in place. Grade: C

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action/peril, brief strong language, and some sensuality.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo; 2 scenes of implied sex. Violence: 16 instances, including perilous situations at sea and a brawl. Profanity: 21 expressions. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 12 scenes of drinking.

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