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DVD SAVANT

The Bodyguard


The Bodyguard

1992 / Color / 1:85 anamorphic 16:9 / 130 min. / Street Date February 1, 2005 / 19.96
Starring Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, Michele Lamar Richards, Mike Starr, Ralph Waite
Cinematography Andrew Dunn
Production Designer Jeffrey Beecroft
Art Direction Wm Ladd Skinner
Film Editor Donn Cambern, Richard A. Harris
Original Music Alan Silvestri
Written by Lawrence Kasdan
Produced by Kevin Costner, Lawrence Kasdan, Jim Wilson
Directed by Mick Jackson

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Reviewers eager to tear apart The Bodyguard harp on all the qualities it is obviously trying to emphasize: the plot is a thin excuse for some romantic thrills and not at all credible as a thriller. The real subject here is mixing danger with the high-end glamorous life of a pop diva to produce an glitzy romance. And the plan is clearly for Kevin Costner to help singing star Whitney Houston cross over to an acting career.

That old-fashioned idea is the same as every escapist romantic fantasy made during Hollywood's Golden Age: find the right two stars to mix'n match as romantic foils, and if the chemistry is right the audience will buy into whatever story you're selling.

The Bodyguard is a little pretentious and certainly longer than it has to be, but its simplicity saves it. Savant can't fault the observation that it seems to exist to sell music videos, but what film is perfect?

Synopsis:

Ace private-detective bodyguard Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner) reluctantly takes the job of protecting top singing star Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston) when her handler Bill Devaney (Bill Dobbs) intercepts some dangerous death threats. Rachel hasn't been informed of the more serious details and chafes when Frank's security plans inhibit her lifestyle. She's also attracted to him, which brings an unwanted emotional factor into play when they spend a night together. As her public appearances multiply on the way to a big Oscar night, tempers fray and Rachel's life indeed is threatened, inducing Frank to protect her in the only way he can - with his own life.

In the okay retro-docu on the film included on this special edition disc, writer Lawrence Kasdan tells us that the center of the film was always the chestnut idea that when a bodyguard takes a salary, he's offering to lay down his own life for his employer's. There's about five minutes of that theme in The Bodyguard, and even that is wish-fulfillment when one imagines all the ways an assassin can make a bodyguard's efforts useless, no matter how hard he tries. But this is the movies, and Kevin Costner is always on task and in the exact perfect position to do his job, rain or shine. Some nut is trying to kill a famous rock star. As it turns out we never get the straight story on exactly why Rachel is being stalked on Oscar night. One nut has been proven harmless and the other is dead, so why does the contracted killer follow through? Personal revenge? Professional jealousy?

Every ex- Treasury agent or police helper that Kevin Costner meets asks him about the big $ to be found in his kind of private jobs, which is also not particularly well explained. Instead, Kasdan's script trots out clips from the classic Kurosawa film Yojimbo, a title which happens to mean "bodyguard."

What works in The Bodyguard is a personal romantic fantasy. Viewers get to identify with the romance and bickering between the extremely beautiful Houston and Costner. All else is sublimated to their coy small talk, sexual banter and emotional differences. Costner is always proven to have the right macho stuff, as trouble strikes whenever Houston's troublesome handlers ignore his security guidelines.

Dumb thug Tony (Mike Starr) turns out to be a true-blue pal, while everyone ignores the obvious truth that whoever wants Rachel dead is part of her own staff or household. The eventual traitor is easy to guess but as inconsequential as the other elements of the non-existent mystery. Houston's rock star has no extended family or friends that visit or hang around - ever. There are so few characters that the guilty parties are ridiculously obvious. The only trick that Kasdan gets away with is in making us think that Rachel's son's remote control boat is somehow going to figure in a murder attempt. It doesn't, even though a real boat later on does.

But the teenaged girls will like the flashy pop visuals of Rachel doing her music video thing; they will enjoy watching her wardrobe evolve in place of character development. They'll especially like the fantasy of a sexually aggressive woman going after Costner in a big way, resulting in sexy rescues and spicy arguments, such as when Rachel comes on to competing bodyguard Greg Portman (Tomas Arana) just to show Costner who's boss in bed. Ooh, hot stuff, baby!

Standouts in the small supporting cast are Michele Lamar Richards as Rachel's older sister, and Ralph Waite as Frank's mellow dad.

Action-mystery grade: C. Romantic fantasy grade for undemanding female audiences: A+.  1


Warners' special edition DVD of The Bodyguard is at least honest: The package text proclaims that this is the first-time widescreen DVD release, admitting that the film is already out on one of those adapted pan-scan discs. The newly enhanced picture looks great, with the darkest black details fully encoded and looking good on a large monitor. The soundtrack with all of those Houston radio songs sounds great as well. A music video for I Will Always Love You is included. After they dance to a country version in a bar, the film cleverly adopts it as Rachel and Frank's theme song.

The new docu has recent interviews with all the principals except Houston, whose ID graphic has the year 1992 written next to her name. Either that or she hasn't aged a week in thirteen years. The film was made by Costner and his non-nonsense Dances With Wolves partner Jim Wilson, and between that success and this one a thrifty producer could retire in style. The original trailer is also included.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, The Bodyguard rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: new docu, music video, trailer
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: February 24, 2005


Footnote:

1. If you spend your time championing violent crime films, monsters & science fiction epics, it's only fair to acknowledge that other audiences go to the movies to see different kinds of fantasies. The Bodyguard is for them!
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DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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