Guardian Review

There's nothing like a really good supernatural thriller is there ? Sadly, Guardian is nothing like a really good supernatural thriller. It omits such trivial factors as suspense, realism and pace and replaces them with endlessly derivative plotting and ludicrously overheated action set-pieces that want to be John Woo but come out more like John Craven.

The plot, if I can bear to relate it to you, begins with an archaeological mission in Iraq during February of 1991 which seems to have an ulterior motive involving a rare and precious powder. This being the aftermath of the Gulf War, two US Marines have been dispatched to see what's going on. When the archaeologist Dr Lichtmann finds a tomb labelled "Open This And The Dead Will Outnumber The Living" he decides to open it, as you would, and thus unleashes the ancient Sumerian Demon, Tel-Al, on an unsuspecting world. Just as the tomb is opened, pregnant Mrs Lichtmann delivers a baby boy and before you can say "Jewel Of Seven Stars", some kind of mini-apocalypse breaks out. One of the Marines is killed and the other is mutilated and knocked unconscious by a masked woman who rescues the baby and walks off with it. The surviving Marine, Kross (Peebles), wakes up in a hospital to discover that his chest is covered in strange occult symbols and that the baby hasn't been traced. Mrs Lichtmann has been placed in a mental hospital and everyone else is dead. Flash forward a few years and Kross is an LA cop - complete with truly criminal haircut - investigating various outrages connected to the new super-drug Chaos. A sleazy Hollywood agent's seduction of a young "actress" culminates in a massacre, a drug dealer is killed by a priest, and Kross's young wife ends up in hospital after being attacked in a supermarket car park. Somehow involved in all this are Kross's partner Carpenter (Remar), shady FBI Agent Taylor (Hugh Kelly), his shouting boss who is, for a change, female and Ice-T as a club-owning drug dealer who says sleazy things like "There's only one thing I hate more than a lying bitch and that's a lying cop bitch". Unsurprisingly, we discover that Chaos is mixed up with the return of Telal and that the demon has the sort of plan for world domination that will be so comfortingly familiar to anyone who ever watched an episode of "Doctor Who".

This is all so deeply silly that I can almost recommend it as an amusing post-pub rental for fans of mindless action. The problem is that it's paced without any real discipline or tension and it pulls so many predictable twists out of its threadbare hat that the revelations become amusingly cosy rather than surprising. Mario Van Peebles isn't a bad actor but he has no material worth working with here and he is saddled with a hysterically awful costume which matches a comfy arran sweater with leather trousers and a leather waistcoat, topped off by a leather raincoat. Given the temperatures in LA, I imagine he has a serious personal hygeine problem at the end of the day, but, sadly, this avenue of characterisation is not followed up. He spends most of the running time with a concerned look on his face, presumably having realised what's happened to his career. James Remar is reliable in the second-string hero role, but only appears to be having fun during the last half hour. The other characters have nothing to do but, very slowly, advance the plot. I did like the professor who is on hand to explain the plot, saying deliciously cryptic things like "The Truth is the Truth". The title derives from the character of the mysterious woman who rescues the baby and turns up in LA to get Peebles out of trouble and lead him to the grown child called David, who will, inevitably, hold the balance of power in his hands when Tel-Al attempts to take control of the world. She is played by Karina Lombard, but I was distracted by the obvious attempts to model her along the lines of Carrie Ann Moss in The Matrix; although the actions scenes are not so much bullet-time as cocoa-and-biscuits-time.

Guardian is mindlessly watchable without being remotely good in any sense of that term. The action scenes go into slow-motion overdrive but the director, John Terlesky, hasn't realised that good slow motion action demands a certain specificity and an overriding sense of interest in the fate of the characters. He just uses it to make the visuals look nice but it has the effect of slowing the film down at times when it should be most exciting. Every other technical aspect is competent but forgettable. The script is a collection of cliches from lots of much better films, but you'd probably guessed that already. There are unintentional giggles to be had at Peeble's wardrobe and the bizarrely underpopulated LA Police Station, but the ultimate impression is one of overwhelming mediocrity.

The Disc

This isn't a bad presentation from Metrodome, although there's nothing here to make such an uninteresting film more of an attractive purchase.

The picture quality is surprisingly good. This is a crisp, detailed 1.85:1 transfer that is anamorphically enhanced. Colours are strong and there are no serious artifacting problems even in the dusty desert scenes that open the film. Some grain here and there but otherwise a pretty impressive visual transfer.

The only soundtrack is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that is acceptable but not particularly spectacular. The evocative music score sounds quite nice but otherwise there's nothing here to challenge anybody's system.

We get a trailer and some animated menus in the way of extras. The trailer merrily gives away plot point after plot point, not that any of the these points are especially surprising There are also some brief filmographies and 20 chapter stops.

So, another missable action movie to add to the straight to DVD list. An acceptable rental if you are either (a) very tolerant or (b) very pissed. Otherwise, don't make a special trip out.

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