Review: The Bodyguard

The Bodyguard OST cover

I know your pain. It’s Valentines Day and you know that you’re going to have to endure some crap like Sweet Home Alabama to get a whiff of action. She’s not fallen for the fake Deadpool poster, and she insists that Rocky is a boxing movie and not a love story. You’re screwed.

But I have a solution. Let’s find out why The Bodyguard might solve all of your problems.

Yes, it stars Kevin Costner (Man of Steel), but don’t let that put you off. Remember, this was at the height of his powers. It also features some pretty cool samurai sword action, explosions, and a slow-motion jump-in-front-of-a-bullet moment (spoiler). But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Costner plays Frank Farmer, a former Secret Serviceman who now serves as bodyguard to the rich and important. Right off the bat he shoots some assassin who is trying for the life of his latest contract, Long-Haired Diplomat Dude. He hasn’t even spoken, and some punk is dead at his feet, so we know he’s not to be trifled with. With the threat of death now over, he heads home for the first time in months – it’s a modest house, with no furniture/decorations, and Farmer is a modest, suit-wearing kind of guy. He’s eats the food he cooks straight out of the pan. It’s all about being practical for Frank Farmer.

The Bodyguard Kevin Costner Gun

His hard-won solitude is destroyed when Bill Devaney (Bill Cobbs – Demoliton Man) turns up. He wants to hire Frank for his client, the super-star actress/singer Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston). She’s been getting death threats – the kind where people would cut out letters from newspaper headlines and create new words like “DIE BITCH” using some Pritt-Stick and paper. Remember, this was the early 90’s, before Twitter-trolling was the rage. Plus, thanks to the glory of modern HD imaging, you’ll notice some of these messages also include some crude, Superbad-esque cocks drawn all over them for added impact. It’s concerning Bill enough to warrant him hiring some extra security.

Frank doesn’t want any part of it. He doesn’t do celebrities. But he’s the best according to Devaney, and he only wants the best. To prove his point, Farmer does some badass knife-throwing shit.

For $3k a week, Frank agrees. So he rolls up to the palatial mansion of baller Marron. Farmer already knows things are dodgy as the house is being watched by some shady creep in a jeep. Plus, the security ain’t exactly what you’d call tight. It’s more loose than a hillbilly grandmother in fact. He buzzes in through the gate, and bluffs his way past various goons using increasingly rediculous names. First he’s saying he’s old American presidents, then he’s spinning crap like “I’m Eminem, come to cut a new single”. Okay, that doesn’t happen, and he keeps it to old American bosses, but the point is he gets right up to Rachel without anyone giving him grief.

Rachel is recording a new music video, and has loads of dancers and showbiz fucks hanging about. There’s an immediate magnetism between the two, but Farmer is all business. Marron doesn’t want any alterations to her life or property, and thinks that the muscle offered by Tony (Mike Starr – Goodfellas) is more than enough. Farmer see’s it as too much work for too little reward. She’s some spoiled little diva, and he’s too badass to have to take any shit at this stage of his career. So he walks. She is immediately intrigued, as she’s totally used to every guy fawning over her every wish.

He’s talked back by Bill, and PR manager Sy (Gary Kemp – The Krays). You see, it’s a lot more serious than they’ve let on. Some guy had even managed to break into the place, and spaffed all over her bedsheets. Both Bill and Sy are keeping the darker nature of what is going on (and the laundry duties) from Rachel, and beg Farmer to stay. He agrees, on the provision things get done his way, and they tell Rachel wtf is going on. His first port of call is enlisting her driver, Henry (Christopher Birt – Crimson Tide) to be his number two. He teaches him about security, how to do Bodyguard driving (basically lots of skidding around corners), and has him do all the leg work for all the various alterations to her property he starts making. Cameras, lights, booby-traps, that sort of thing.

All this is too much for Rachel though. She’s getting pissed off with all of the workmen running around, and if Farmer says she can’t go out for lunch with her friend one more god-damn time… Sy is also a thorn in his side too; he’s constantly pushing for Rachel to be more public, the exact opposite of what Farmer (and us) know is best. It’s totally a case of she is the boss, but he’s pulling the strings. She doesn’t like it, or the unapproving and dismissive looks he gives her. He can’t stand her free-spirited attitude. Of course, they’re totally hot for each other because of this.

The Bodyguard Whitney Houston Kevin Costner

One night, to really mess with his head, Rachel decides to head out to a club for the hell of it. There’s no entry or exit plan, and the venue’s security is lame. It’s a nightmare for poor old Frank, who is an ass-hair’s breadth from quitting this thankless task. As he puts it, “he doesn’t usually have to convince his client that they need protecting”.

But there’s a nasty surprise in store for Rachel in her dressing room. It’s another lovely note, informing her that she’s going to die soon, and that the sender intends to use her skull to pleasure himself with (she can decide which hole he uses first). She’s not seen anything like this before, and Farmer is a bit annoyed that Bill and Sy have been protecting her from the reality of the situation. They quickly decide to scarper. The crowd are going mental, however. They know she’s here, and they’re gonna tear the place apart if she doesn’t make an appearance. So she decides to go on.

Like that time the Rolling Stones hired the Hell’s Angels to bounce one of their gigs, things quickly get out of control. Rachel, mid-performance as some Metropolis-costumed cyborg she-singer, gets rushed by rabid fans. She’s hoisted up in the air, and has all her girly bits grabbed at. Frank dives in to save the day, elbowing and throat chopping any idiot who stands between Rachel and himself. Moments later, she’s in his arms. He carries her out of them, kicking anyone foolish enough to get in their way. He even puts the boot in on one blonde dude who, unknowingly to them, has been sending the death threats. It’s pretty much the moneyshot of the movie, inspiring a whole plethora of mockeries.

Tony, at the other side of the dance floor, dashes out to get the car started. But it’s nowhere to be seen. Farmer had instead sent a signal to Henry to park it at the side exit, and they’re soon out of the building and out of danger, leaving poor Tony and Sy behind. Rachel is shaken, but safe. It’s all suddenly dawning on her that she needs Frank. Without him, she’d maybe even be dead. Like a little child, he puts her to bed. He even gives her a little stuffed teddy to cuddle. She feels totally stupid, and asks him why he thinks she acts the way he does. He doesn’t answer. It’s not for him to judge. What a goddamn hero.

We need some action to dispel all this soft tenderness, and we don’t have long to wait. Tony is back. It’s been raining outside, and it looks like Big T walked home. Farmer has his shirt-collar undone so we know he’s trying to chill out. He’s sat, eating an apple, ignoring the sopping wet enforcer. It escalates quickly when Tony takes a swing at him.

It isn’t Seagal-Under Siege 2 levels of aikido, but it’s still a pretty cool moment to remind us that Frank is the boss, and he’ll go as far as he needs to when the time calls for it. Later in the movie, it seems they’ve bonded over this moment. Tony has gained respect for Farmer, and jumps to his defense a few times, even calling Sy an asshole. Coming together after trying to kill each other is a staple “man-thing” which I love. Like in boxing or MMA where two fighters who hate each other hug it out afterwards. Or the end of Rocky IV. It proper gets to you. Women probably won’t understand it, but this little bromance is included here for the men. The women can get off on the actual love story shit.

Naturally, Rachel is now totally infatuated with Farmer. And we sadly suspect he’s attracted to her too. Maybe it’s her willfulness. I guess if he’s surrounded by people who are scared for their lives all the time, it must be refreshing to meet someone who seems less than concerned. She asks him out on a date and he agrees. Being the old romantic that he is, he takes her to the cinema to watch a black and white samurai film. Yojimbo to be exact. Fun fact, Yojimbo was released in the US under the title The Bodyguard.

Whitney Houston The Bodyguard

But it’s not a turn off as you’d expect to Rachel, even after he tells her he’s seen it 67 times. You totally believe he’s seen it 67 times too. Costner really nails his character’s acute attention to every detail in this movie, and really gives the impression that he’s always “on”. Even in the honky-tonk bar he takes her afterwards, when someone drops a glass by accident he’s ready to kick ass. And that’s one of the themes of this film. Farmer can’t ever let up. From experience, the moment he let’s his guard down someone dies. That’s why he always quits when he starts getting attached to his clients. There’s hints dropped throughout that he protected the President who was shot on the one day Frank had off. It’s only late on that you find out that he was off to attend his Mother’s funeral of all things, which is a double whamy of guilt-burger.

Back at the bar, Rachel comments on the country version of “I will always love you” being so melodramatic. She doesn’t understand the significance yet as they slow dance their way through the night. Arriving at his place later, she’s again caught off guard by the lack of opulence in his life. In fact, the only expensive looking thing he owns is a samurai sword. She swings it about like Luke Skywalker playing with his first lightsaber. And just like Luke, she has no idea how fucking dangerous it is.

That seals the deal and they jump into bed together.

The next day, Frank is a bit annoyed with himself. He knows that he shouldn’t be getting this close. So he lets her down gently. He’ll still protect her, but you know, just as friends. She doesn’t take it very well and runs off. The film sort of resets again, as she moans about him intruding in her life, while he freaks out about her being so reckless. The “will they, won’t they” dynamic continues, culminating in an actual assassination attempt at the Academy Awards from a surprising source.

Of course, the film ends with Rachel singing “I will always love you”. I’ll let you figure out what that means if you’ve not actually seen it yet.

The Bodyguard Kevin Costner Whitney Houston

I won’t deny that there’s singing and romance elements in this film. And if they comprised the bulk of the movie, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it and wouldn’t be writing about it now. In fact, I would have turned it off and made my girlfriend watch Platoon or some other morbid man-shit as revenge. But at it’s heart, The Bodyguard isn’t about singing and romance. Nor is it really about some dude trying to kill a girl, and another dude trying to stop it. Instead, it’s the age old “want what you can’t have” concept, just played out on a variety of levels. Rachel wants to live a life of luxury. Frank want’s to keep her safe. Frank wants to remain cold and objective. Rachel and her family want him to be closer. And so fourth. Like a great sandwich, it’s got a simple framework, with a great and satisfying filling. Throw in the “opposites attract” conceit, and you’ve pretty much got the romantic theme of the movie.

This is director Mick Jackson’s biggest film to date, and while you’ll find the occasional over-indulgent sweeping camera shot, it sort of shares a grounded reality to the likes of Silence of the Lambs. It’s not as gritty, but The Bodyguard is still a practical and conservative film. And the casting is the same. Obviously, Whitney’s strongest power is her singing, but she’s not as out of place as some singers turned actresses (hello, Rihanna). Equally, Costner is hardly a Ryan Reynolds type, but is believable as an understated ass kicker. In fact, it doesn’t share much with more modern chick-flicks. It’s not glossy and it doesn’t have the hottest actors in the world to totally alienate you whilst watching.

The Bodyguard Kevin Costner carrying Whitney Houston

Neither are the greatest method actor, but there’s undoubtedly chemistry between the pair. Naturally, Farmer was the far more interesting character for me. The understated (some would call emotionally devoid) way in which Costner acts is well suited. He’s always switched on. Always in control. It’s the moments where he eases up on the reins, for the brief moments of happiness, that things go bad. It is pretty tragic.

Like any great film, everything is there to serve the story, written by the great Lawrence Kasdan (you know, that guy who wrote all the best Star Wars films – including the latest one). It actually has a plot which, while not totally unpredictable, has some decent twists. There’s a double bluff involved, and the originator of all the angst comes from an unexpected source. Surprisingly, it also doesn’t have a Hollywood ending, which really works and only reinforces the emotional power for women, and the “yeah, he’s a badass” feelings from the guys. Every character like Tony has a little arc, and everyone goes through a change of sorts. Rachel finally understands what “I will always love you” is about, and all that. It’s satisfying for all involved.

Basically, it’s got enough snuggle-up-and-go-awww appeal for the ladies, and a really awesome exploding-camera-head-squib effect for the guys. Get it watched.

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One thought on “Review: The Bodyguard

  1. Pingback: Review: Demolition Man | The Movie Bastards

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