Swimming to America

The Guardian

Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher, and Sela Ward star in
a film written by Ron L. Brinkerhoff and directed by Andrew
Davi.

Reviewed by D.J. Palladino

photo_05_hires.jpgIt’s hard to ignore the appeal of Kevin
Costner educating Ashton Kutcher on the depths of sorrow. Though in
real life both belong to the same fraternity, Delta Chi, and both
are masters of the laconic drawl and batted-eye school of
masculinity, neither can compete with Clint Eastwood’s eloquent
wrinkles or the battered human carriage of Anthony Hopkins.
Nonetheless, we must not forget that both Costner and Kutcher have
weathered their shares of both edgy films and duds. (Costner in No
Way Out and The Postman; Kutcher in The Butterfly Effect and Dude,
Where’s My Car?) Both are charismatically handsome, and often for
swimming scenes that’s more than enough. Better yet, this turns out
to be a natural pairing; there is even chemistry, an unexpected
coup de grâce for our own action filmmaker hero Andrew Davis. What
may surprise you about the film is Kutcher’s sensitive moment. The
downside of Davis’s script and film is that it too often invokes
comparison with An Officer and a Gentleman and, shudder, Top
Gun.

Kutcher swaggers, wears wire-rimmed shades, meets with a village
damsel, gets taken down a notch, and then proves himself in action.
What mostly saves Davis, though, are the script’s moments of
unexpected tenderness. Costner plays an aging hotshot unable to
pull himself out of the game. In a late-night scene, he’s lectured
by a battle-weary bartender woman who preaches that the value of
aging is its own reward for having lived a life. I’ve never seen a
Hollywood film quite express this obvious, almost Chaucerian
notion.

What really saves the film, though, is the focus of all this
sweaty training. Davis has made a military-genre film about Coast
Guard swimmers saving — not destroying — lives. The legend of the
guardian refers to a mythical protector lurking in murky waters who
pulls drowning men from sure destruction. In this film the savior
is the lingering humanity that Davis reminds us is still
institutionalized in contemporary America

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