The Guardian


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Guardian
"This has been padded out with nearly two hours of sentimental bullshit, making the whole so painful to endure that, by comparison, drowning doesn't seem so bad."

Kevin Costner is a grizzled lifeguard officer traumatised after an accident claims the lives of his workmates. Ashton Kutcher is an ambitious young recruit at the academy to which he is sent to work as a trainer. Immediately rubbing each other up the wrong way, the two become locked in a competitive struggle before gradually learning to respect one another. It's formulaic, but the acting is reasonably good, and there's an above average film in here for those who like this sort of thing. The trouble is that it's 40 minutes long and has been padded out with nearly two hours of sentimental bullshit, making the whole so painful to endure that, by comparison, drowning doesn't seem so bad.

Top Gun style, the lifeguard academy is filled with eager youngsters whose attempts to impress one another form the more solid part of the story. The supporting cast are all at least competent, and poor young Kutcher acts his socks off trying to make something of a role nobody will remember. Unfortunately, there's simply no chemistry between him and the woman who makes him question his career commitments. The relationships of the older characters are more convincing but, by virtue of that, unbalance the story.

Copy picture

Scenes of action at sea do succeed in being exciting and are intelligently shot so that we get a real sense of the danger and confusion involved without losing track of what's happening to individual characters. Unfortunately the rest of the direction is pedestrian. As with many other examples in its genre, the film tries to build up emotional tension by giving us an insight into a tough training regime, but a number of the tasks which the recruits are given are really not very difficult at all (treading water for an hour in a warm pool is something which any healthy ten-year-old should be able to manage), and they're further let down by a poor understanding of physics. These scenes are then cobbled together so as to threaten death by montage, apparently in an effort to save time and make room for more ridiculously drawn out scenes toward the end.

If you do go to see this film and enjoy it for the action and the military drama, you would be well advised to leave at least half an hour before the end. Whatever it is that Costner does to editors, they seem to lose all control over his work. Here once again we see his character raised to greater and greater levels of improbable heroism, praised by Kutcher's adoring voiceover until any sympathy we had for either of them is gone. Doubtless Costner expected this would leave audiences in floods of tears; it's more likely to leave them reaching for the sick-bags. What ought to be an action-packed tale of daring sea rescues ends up just being wet.

Reviewed on: 11 Oct 2006
Share this with others on...
The Guardian packshot
An ambitious would-be lifeguard learns the ropes from a man who's seen it all.
Amazon link

Read more The Guardian reviews:

Amber Wilkinson ***1/2

Director: Andrew Davis

Writer: Ron L Brinkerhoff

Starring: Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher, Sela Ward, Melissa Sagemiller, Clancy Brown, Omari Hardwick, Alex Daniels, Daniel J. Molthen, Andrew Schanno, Adam Pena, Joe Arquette

Year: 2006

Runtime: 136 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database:

If you like this, try:

Top Gun