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The Bodyguard

***
1992

‘…doesn’t do well with plot, but the atmosphere is good, with Houston and Costner undeniably having the super-glam looks for this…’

A slippery one to pin down, Mick Jackson’s romantic thriller was a runaway success, and yet also something of a disaster for all concerned. A cinematic, home video and soundtrack smash, The Bodyguard featured iconic leads, a slick production and Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, and the ingredients suggest an instant classic. But this was the peak of Costner as a star draw, Whitney Houston’s career collapse after this early promise is widely recorded elsewhere, and Jackson followed up with a Dana Carvey vehicle. So what is wrong (and right) with The Bodyguard?

Firstly, this is a thriller well short on thrills. The opening bombing is only shown obliquely, and there’s few attempts to create tension or even an action scene that extends beyond a few seconds. Costner sports a rough haircut, and plays up his brand of glowering charisma as ex presidential bodyguard Frank Farmer who takes on a tricky job protecting pop star Rachel Maddox (Houston) from an unknown threat. Of course, Rachel falls for Frank’s gruff charm, and the couple unwisely embark on a tempestuous affair as Farmer attempts to flush the killer out.

The Bodyguard doesn’t do well with plot, but the atmosphere is good, with Houston and Costner undeniably having the super-glam looks for this, and a reasonably authentic feel for the music business and its excesses, plus some samurai references for cineastes. The details, however, are utter cobblers; Farmer rebuilds Rachel’s’ house to make it secure, but when she visits a local night-club, she sits alone opening hand-written letters from strangers? Frank convinces Rachel to cancel all of the tour-dates she has sold out, but she still wants to go to the Oscars? The entire Oscar ceremony is a hoot, hosted by Robert Wuhl with some real old-school sexist remarks, and there’s a Debbie Reynolds cameo to boot as The Bodyguard jumps the shark with some high-end melodrama for the climax, untypically silly from the usually grounded pen of Lawrence Kasdan.

Intended for Diana Ross and Steve McQueen, The Bodyguard was one of these not-great films that were widely seen, and that ubiquitous quality ended up damaging everyone’s reputations. But served up as streaming on Amazon Prime circa 2021, it’s pretty entertaining, and better than memory serves. A remake with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga as the protector and singer exists only in my imagination, but might just be a go-er if the roles were reversed for the woke era…

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  1. Every time I click on Spiral Son of Saw, it takes me into The Bodyguard. So that’s why the Spiral review is in the wrong place. But then there’s no rules here, right?

  2. I’m not a fan of torture porn any more than I’m a fan of Chris Rock, his screen persona too brash and loud for my liking, so I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one – as part of a cinema double-bill today with the jolly Jolie smoke jumper number. This older Rock came across very well and although the police corruption was a bit old hat and although I guessed what it was all about and who the bad guy might be, I still found it engaging enough and Rock way more than tolerable. Samuel L. Jackson was a plus.

    • That is what I thought; the police procedural functions if you skip the ghost train bit, and Rock was a good hero. That’s more than I expected from a Saw movie.

      • It was being set up as though there would be a sequel and Rock was an exec producer so I wonder if it will fly with saw fans as much as the originals.

  3. …And I will always love Yooooooooou! In all seriousness, The Bodyguard was very enjoyable for me. The music helps of course, but the plot held my attention too.

    • I certainly found it much earlier to enjoy on a re-watch. Either the film has matured or I have. Probably the film.

  4. Your judgement is a bit harsh, I would venture. I didn’t notice the various plotholes so much and thought it was highly enjoyable then, the high point of Costner’s career in box office terms. Might not have worked so well without the music but this was a one-off and I thought it a peach.

    • Harsh would be a good word to describe what it thought of this first time around. Looking at it now, I can see it as good old fashioned Hollywood moonshine, and nostalgia helps in this case.

      • Old-fashioned is apt. It’s the kind of Hollywood picture that really has no precedent may not even have worked so well in the original Steve McQueen-Diana Ross star teaming. It works well because Costner pulls off cynical as much as Houston brings wide-eyed innocence to the party. Both actors might not have required much acting to deliver such ideas. But it just gels.

        • I have to admit the star pairing does work here. And I’m warming to your view; it just strikes me as odd for a film to be so iconic, and yet bungle so much, including the climax. Yet it does gel, as you say, and the interracial aspect stands up well today.

  5. having seen this film when it came out, I can tell you I recall absolutely nothing about it. Even the photo up there of youthful stars is totally a blank. I do recall one sequence of Costner sort of “using the force” and shooting with eyes closed. Dumb at any speed. While i loved Costner and DAncing with Wolves / the Postman / Waterworld all had certain draw for me a romance (maybe that’s the problem) sank like a stone.

    • I felt the same. After seeing Costner in Untouchables, No Way Out and others, I could not understand how he could make a film with so little action. Now I get the goal was a cheesy/soppy romance, and the action was barely there, and it services that audience, but I cannot emphasis how cold this left me in 1992; I hated it!

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