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Starring Glen Levy, Tanya Dempsey, Lana Pirian, Stephanie Kane, Shawn Dempsey
Directed by Ted Smith
Guardian of the Realm is not a bad movie or even a boring movie. In fact, I'd dare say it's very ambitious given its obvious low budget nature, but everything for at least the first two-thirds of its running time is disappointingly humdrum from the plotting to the directing to the pacing to the acting. This is supposed to be a movie about a top secret squad of elite demon slayers in a race against time to stop a resurrected demon lord from unleashing hell on earth and yet there's no sense of urgency on the part of the heroes or the villains. Everyone just seems to be going through the motions required by the plot. Then again, there isn't an awful lot of plot to begin with. It's more like the filmmakers had an idea for the basic set-up and the finale; everything in between was just a pointless means to an end. I'd been looking forward to seeing this one ever since stumbling across the films website and thinking, "This actually looks pretty cool." It almost is.
Despite the back of the box declaring that Guardian of the Realm is "in the tradition of Blade and Underworld," it really has more in common with a short-lived UPN series from 2001 called "Special Unit 2" that dealt with a secret police unit that dealt with monsters. The monsters in this case are demons that look sort of like the vampires from "Buffy" and "Angel" only with glowing red eyes, even more fangs, and horns coming out of their foreheads. The make-up work is actually quite good given the limitations of the film's budget as demonstrated whenever the cheap CGI is used.
Our hero Josh is a Guardian, a secret centuries old group of demon hunters that protect the mortal realm from demons that occasionally slip into our dimension. The branch of the Guardians that he works for operates out of a high tech underground lair in Los Angeles. He's soon paired up with a female Guardian from New York on the trail of some demons that have stolen an ancient suit of demon armor and a bag of demon bones, never a good combination since together they can create a nearly unstoppable hulking demonoid in a suit of demon armor that looks slightly more menacing than your average Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers' monster. Actually, it's rather nifty looking but there's no shaking the Power Rangers vibe the bulky rubber-suited monster gives off.
Things seemingly go from bad to worse now that an ancient all-powerful demon lord named Vilago that's hellbent on wiping out the Guardians and unleashing all of demon kind upon our world has been unleashed itself. After taking possession of an unfortunate female to become a demonic villainess that looks like Evil Lynn as conceived by Brian Pulido, Vilago proceeds to spend the duration of the movie inside of its/her dumpy warehouse fortress talking a lot more about its/her evil plans than actually doing anything about it itself/herself and occasionally getting all sapphic with other lady demons.
This brings us back to the core problem of a rather vague plot with no sense of urgency behind it. Vilago is using the monstrous demon to do its/her bidding but that bidding is often ambiguous and whatever it is the armored henchdemon is doing almost always occurs off camera. It'll then be shown returning from wherever it went to bring back whatever it was told to. Then Vilago cackles with delight and sends it on another errand. An argument could be made that perhaps a lot of this was due to the film's obvious low budget but given the shoddy manner in which the Guardians' side of the story is told I'm left with no alternative then to just call it really poor screenwriting.
Our leather clad WB Network Blade wannabe hero and his thong-baring, midriff-exposing, flaxen-haired, butt-kicking partner from out of town pay more lip service to the plot than actually do anything that directly advances it and do so with little urgency themselves. Until they draw their weapons and engage demons in combat, which they do far too infrequently until the third act, these two speak and act less like demon hunters and more like potential victims in a slasher film. Casually declaring that you're in a race against time to save the world doesn't seem so urgent when you're telling someone to pick you up in the morning and be sure to bring coffee and donuts.
Oh yeah, and their witty banter isn't very witty, and even it was, their attempts to deliver the banter with some punch generally falls flat because their timing is way off. There's also supposed to be sexual tension between the male and female lead emphasis on "supposed to be."
The only person in the film showing any signs of exuberance is the hyper geeky dispatch girl with a crush on the lead. She shows more spunk than anyone else in the entire cast and her small part in the film consists of little more than radioing the heroes to tell them where to go next.
The less said about the actress playing Vilago the better. Oof! Very bad dialog delivered very badly.
It isn't until the last 30 minutes that Guardian of the Realm really begins to kick in like it should have the whole time. It still isn't quite enough to overcome the blandness of the first hour but you can see the cult potential it had to be something along the lines of kung fu monster mash that was Guyver 2: Dark Hero (a film in which this film's director played one of the monstrous Zoanoids). That might also be because the actors, primarily lead actor Glen Levy, display some shockingly good martial arts choreography, stunning by standard low budget made-for-DVD quality productions, and because the film's finale has Virago reveal its true form, a fantastically wacky Guyver-esque monstrosity, and the Guardians reveal their little secret as well, all just in time for the final battle for the fate of mankind. If only the first hour had the spirit of the third act, particularly the last 10 minutes.
Guardian of the Realm is a film with all the ingredients for a future cult classic that's pretty ho hum for the first hour before finally beginning to develop into the sort of film it wanted to be from the get-go. If you can stand slogging through the underwhelming and often poorly scripted first two-thirds then Guardian of the Realm is worth a rental just for the last half hour, assuming you don't mind some Japanese style humans battling monsters action. This could have been a contender.