The Red Right Hand
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THE GUARDIAN
Risk Everything

Director
Andrew Davis
Starring
Kevin Costner
Ashton Kutcher
Sela Ward
Melissa Sagemiller

God, I hated this film; a 136 minute long insult to the men and women risking their lives at sea. Even thinking back on it is giving me a headache – and to think that Costner stars as the lead in one of my most watched and favourite of flicks – damn you, Costner! Don’t you know that even the smallest amount of water in your films is your albatross! If 1995’s Waterworld wasn’t enough to prove that water and Costner do not mix then by all means go along to see The Guardian, you’ll find that it’s a torridly long experience fraught with agonisingly uplifting scenes not dissimilar from Top Gun or bloody Ladder 49! Alright, maybe I’m rushing on a little. I suppose I should provide you all with a few historical details. As of this date [October 2006] Waterworld is the 7th most expensive film ever made, in between Troy and Terminator 3 at $175,000,000. It took Costner’s successful, award winning career and (with the aid of The Postman) nailed his coffin shut; it’s considered one of the biggest flops and career nose-dives of all time… by some... namely me. Then, finally, in 2003 he went back to Westerns and made Open Range, a fantastically impressive film that I genuinely thought was the boost that Costner needed to get back into the cinematic playing field; evidently not. Of course, Costner isn’t solely to blame; the director must be taken into account. Andrew Davis has brought a whole vial full of poison – mostly disposable action flicks, with the odd success, such as The Fugitive and Under Siege. As for Ashton Kutcher, he should have stayed on MTV, his empty headed Michael in That 70’s Show embodies everything I see in him; his only redeeming feature is The Butterfly Effect (which I raved about incessantly in my review for A Lot Like Love, so I’ll try to keep quiet about it now). So, we have our main components; a director with a one-hit wonder and a couple of actors who have had a shot at greatness and made, it would seem, somewhat stupid errors in their choices. Not looking good, is it?

The next hideous offence is the running time. The only conclusion I could come to was that the crew started to map out a plot about a US Coast Guard who gets jittery, meets some cocky, young buck and gets back on his feet to form some sort of stupid sea-fighting duo. In essence this is exactly the film you have paid to see but somewhere along the way one member of the team must have watched Top Gun because that’s the only rational explanation I can think of. Sitting up gleefully, shouting to their empty flat, “That was brilliant! I’ll add that to my movie!” In an instant a laptop appears and the script is lengthened to a tome the size of the first draft of War & Peace. For some reason, everyone agreed and the film was made as such. What we have now is a product that starts out with the initial premise, creates characters, arcs and plot threads followed by a movie-within-a-movie about this USCG school [the stupidly named A-School] then ending up with a thirty minute wrap-up - in a desperate attempt to tie together everything that took place at the beginning.

If all this wasn’t enough, every character and storyline plays on so many available clichés that you just feel you’re watching a remake. The acting is bland and false, the dialogue is clumsy and distressingly clunky yet ends up convenient – verging on annoying. It was entirely as I had predicted; Costner’s character, Ben Randall, has a breakdown after he loses his crew and is seconded to the USCG training academy. His methods are wild and unprecedented, his treatment harsh but fair but, by God, he gets the job done! (*Starry-Eyed Salute*) One of the most resilient of his pupils is the cocky jock, Jake Fischer [Kutcher] – like the sea-related name fish boy. These two leads spark off each other so much that when they inevitably kiss and make-up you can’t help but scratch your head and wonder why they were a.) ever at odds in the first place and b.) able to put their differences aside and see the potential in one another. Luckily (though, I’m not sure for whom), they made it through the tough (not to mention ridiculously long) and gruelling schooling and Randall went back to Alaska to do his job! Yeah! Alright! Kick ass! Go save some lives… or whatever. Fischer graduated and I started thinking, “Not a bad hour-and-a-half, a bit jerky but that’s forgivable, I suppose. A nice, simple five – middle of the road, not bad.” But the lights didn’t come back on. “No. No, don’t do it. Just round it all off neatly. Come on.”

Another forty minutes later, I was still in my seat. A large weight had been tied to my forehead bringing about a damning frown. 40 long minutes of pointless martyrdom, cheesy reconciliations and God awful apologies. The very worst part was the final cue before the credits, which boldly states “To The Men & Women Of The United States Coast Guard” Unfortunately, it was shown to a cinema full of angry critics and punters who felt nothing other than the swelling in their bladders and that odd itch that creeps along your arse around about the two and a half hour mark. For, it’s the real veterans of this profession who should feel the most disgust and insult at this absolute nonsensical pap. In an interview Kevin Costner said, “There’s a moment in time where everybody here has to use, probably, 100% of their skill and ..er.. if you haven’t, like, trained for it, it’s going to overcome you, you know, the physical effort that it takes to actually just go do multiple takes.” Something tells me he would have been more accurate if he was referring to acting.

Release Date:
27th October 2006

The Scene To Look Out For:
Oh, so many to choose from. A helicopter that explodes on water, an excessively burly bloke who’s shown that ‘muscle doesn’t float’ – despite the majority of the class being large muscular men – or maybe the nineteen final endings you have to endure before everything is put to rights. No? Well, failing that I would say the most notable scene would probably be the fight in the Navy bar. Apparently there’s some sort of division between the USCG and the US Navy, they just don’t get along very well. So, naturally, they can’t drink together or they must fight – like in the ways of old! When sailors caught eyes with other specific sailors and immediately brawled… No! That’s nonsense! All sailors drank in the same bar and fought anyone and everyone BECAUSE THEY’RE SAILORS! End of story.

Notable Characters:
Two actually, the first is Clancy Brown, whom I respect greatly. He played Randall’s boss or something, I dunno. I didn’t really care, I was so sick of that stupid academy that anything outside it seemed a godsend. The second is the token black lady. Yeah, I think her name was Tanica Jamison. She was the semi-butch looking lady who graduated the academy but didn’t have a single line of dialogue (unlike the hot blonde who couldn’t shut up). I just found it amusing that they felt the need to remind everyone that ladies work in the USCG too. Some are black too, did you know that? No? Well, it’s proven here! We saw one graduate! Stupid tacked-on PC nonsense. It would have been fine if she was a character and not a last-minute attempt to please everyone. Just to cover my arse: I’m not trying to be at all racist here, just making a statement that by singling her out, you’re making more of a statement than if you simply included her into your clichéd bit-parts.

Highlighted Quote:
"You’ve got two choices here. Walk away from me or walk out of here with me and we split the money you bet your friends you could pick me up…. how much time you got left?"

In A Few Words:
"A long pointless story that we’ve all seen before, which only does a large discredit to the real-life USCG"

Total Score:
2/10


Matthew Stogdon