From the Archive – Guardian (2000)

This cover is misleading, suggesting that Ice-T has a significant role in the movie.
This cover is misleading, as it implies that Ice-T has a significant role in the movie.

Directed by John Terlesky
Starring Mario van Peebles and Ice-T

During the Gulf War, Marine Recon officer John Kross (Peebles) locates an Iraqi missile site-cum-archaeological dig, where an American archaeologist and his pregnant wife are excavating the sarcophagus of Tel-al, to the horror of his wise old friend back home. The Iraqis are also removing jars of some valuable pink dust from the site. The moon turns red, the archaeologist’s wife has a baby and one of the Iraqi soldiers starts shouting about a prophecy and opens fire on the dig. The archaeologist is killed, and various soldiers start cackling wildly – almost as though they were possessed. Kross is shot, sees a mysterious veiled woman stealing the baby and coming at him with a knife, and wakes with weird cuts all over his body.

Flash forward, and Kross is a detective investigating a new drug called Chaos, distributed by king pin Max (a very overbilled Ice-T) which turns people into homicidal killers. When Max is killed by a woman named Selene, who has a reverb-y voice and jumps off high buildings, things start going strange.

The woman tells Max to find the wise old friend, and it is explained to him that the demon Telal is coming to kill the boy who was born in that desert – who is destined to become a prophet and reunite Judaism, Christianity and Islam – and that it is Kross’ destiny to stop it. They have to get Telal into a new sarcophagus, carved with the same symbols as Kross’ body – and have the boy, David, pray over him at a particular time – during a total lunar eclipse in Iraq.

Telal possesses Kross’ partner – natch – and frames him for murder. Selene – some manner of good demon it seems – springs him and they flee. She is killed, Kross forces Telal to possess him, and thus traps him in his body, which has the same symbols as the sarcophagus, see. Then he jumps off a building.

Oh, and this somehow brings his wife out of a coma, but that’s really incidental.

What’s wrong with it?

The plot is not exactly original, borrowing elements from all over the shop: The unstoppable thing coming after the child; the body-hopping demon etc. Most of the acting isn’t up to much and the dialogue is nothing to write home about either. The whole production has an air of mediocrity, which is somehow accentuated by the very limited use of flow-mo – in the scene where the leather-trousered Selene runs up a wall, grabs someone’s gun and shoots someone else with it, no less – which only serves to invite unfavourable comparison with The Matrix.

Ice-T’s appearance is bizarre, and he pretty much just plays his stage persona. Frankly, even he has been in better, but more than that he’s hardly in it, making it strange that he’s up there with ‘Super’ Mario in the credits.

You can also pretty much call every plot ‘twist’, and sit secure in the knowledge that if you had to save the world you could do it better than John Kross.

What’s right with it?

‘Super’ Mario is at the top of his game here, which is pretty much damning with faint praise, but there you go.

How bad is it really?

Guardian is a grinding mediocrity. It’s not even bad enough to be really funny.

Best bit?

Kross stands in front of a wall with the graffiti: “Jesus is coming”. Before his eyes, it morphs to say: “Telal is here”. That’s pretty neat.

What’s up with…?

  • Selene? The explanation given for her is frankly half-arsed.
  • Kross’ comatose wife? She’s in there largely as a distraction. Okay, she wakes up when he sacrifices himself, but really who cares?
  • Kross correcting people’s grammar? So he’s an ex-marine with an English degree, is he? Well, ain’t that nice for him.

Ratings

Production values – Limp. Not bad, just uninspiring. 12
Dialogue and performances – Not everyone in this film is bad. van Peebles is on top form as the grammatically correct copper, and many people look to be phoning it in, rather than being crap, per se. 16
Plot and execution – Between The Terminator, The Crow and Fallen, there’s barely an aspect of this plot that hasn’t been done better. The directing is not Albert Pyun bad, but isn’t very good either. 15
Randomness – The random element in Guardian comes largely from the fact that no one can be bothered to explain things properly. Does Telal need to possess David? We’re told he just needs to kill him, so why not hurl him off the tower then slope off to remove the markings from Kross’ body with a disc sander? There’s more where that came from too: Who is Selene, really? What is going on here? 18
Waste of potential – Could have been done better. Not much better, but better. 12

Overall 73%

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