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Guardian (2014)
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by Jay Seaver

"Keep your eye on the stars, but it's a shame about the rest."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Keep your eyes on Dominique Agisca Diyose, action fans of the world. She's a looker from Indonesia, a good enough actress for the sort of material she's given here, and she certainly looks like she can throw down when the movie gives her a clear shot. Hook her up with a better movie and maybe a better director - maybe the next one from "The Raid"'s team - and she can be a real star.

Guardian isn't the movie that gets her there, though - it's the one where you hope she stands out amid the godawful mess that is the rest of the movie, including a script that is just full to bursting of stupid. She plays Sara, a single mother who had been insisting her daughter learn martial arts all her life, although Marsya (Belinda Camesi) clearly hates it. But since Sara's husband Wisnu was killed when Marsha was just a baby, the idea that powerful criminal Oscar (Tio Pakusodewo) might someday want to finish the job is never far from Sara's mind - and that's not taking into account Paquita (Sarah Sanguin Carter) being broken out of jail by her old gang.

There are worse premises for an action movie, although this one is something kind of special in terms of its dumb script: It not only hinges on something that seems like it should have been dealt with ten years ago (maybe not easily, but it was kind of important enough to not allow it to go unattended for a decade), but it's also the aggravating sort of movie where nobody ever seems to do anything for any sort of reason that makes sense, whether it be the truly frustrating number of times when Sara could just tell Marsya what is going on and save what seems like a lot of the latter running off and getting other people shot at, even beyond how dumb running off unarmed is once the shooting starts anyway. And then there's the annoyingly myopic ending...

There's plenty of action along the way, but even those of us who like a steady stream of fights and shootouts might find it headache-inducing rather than particularly thrilling. It's both kind of excessive - long stretches of the movie are just the constant din of machine guns as characters who seem like they should be better filled-out but never got names drop - and poorly shot, often in low light that the shaky handheld cameras can't really handle and cut in a way that does a terrible job of establishing the geography. There are some fairly impressive scenes in there, including vat chases with an impressive amount of shredded metal and some well-choreographed hand-to-hand, especially at the climax, but there's so little build-up, investment, or down-time that the effect is often numbing.

(Worth noting: There were some technical issues at the start of the screening, so it's possible that scenes being too dark or mixed too loud won't be an issue at other screenings or on video.)

It's at least got Dominique Agisca Diyose and Sarah Sanguin Carter, both of whom are good choice for a lady-led action picture. Carter is a somewhat surprising inclusion - folks with her profile in Hollywood don't often take work in places like Indonesia between projects (and Asian producers often can't afford them), but she does a nice job, making Paquita businesslike but also believable in her emotional investment, and handle the physical demands as well as usual. Diyose is good as well, carrying a lot of action scenes and certainly capable enough in between. Belinda Camesi is good in that Marsya is meant to be a bit of an annoying little brat, and she does get under the skin.

In fact, a lot of the folks involved deserve better. Unfortunately, the action is quantity over quality, and the stuff in between is so much the opposite of clever that the whole thing is kind of a drag.

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originally posted: 08/31/14 13:40:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/03/14 amy tolley was okay 3 stars
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