After superstar singer-turned-actress Rachel Marron (Houston) receives a series of death threats, ex secret service agent Frank Farmer (Costner) is recruited as her personal bodyguard. Though the two initially clash due to Rachel’s opposition with all the safety measures put in place, a romance soon develops and Frank has to distance himself in order to protect her properly…
Though still known to many for its record-breaking soundtrack and Whitney Houston’s enduring, lip-quivering ballad, The Bodyguard remains a satisfying guilty pleasure which is much more entertaining than most give it credit for. Part popcorn romance, part nineties thriller, it’s the sort of movie which stuffy film-fans won’t admit to enjoying and very much a product of its time, back in the hazy days of cinema when Kevin Costner was Hollywood’s go-to leading man. Originally intended as a project for Steve McQueen and Dianna Ross in the seventies, the script by writer-producer Lawrence Kasdan (who penned The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders Of The Lost Ark) was rejected a rumoured 67 times by Warner Bros, before Costner eventually snaffled it up in ’92 as his next hero vehicle.
Admittedly, the movie dips its toes into manipulative waters, but there’s also a few effectively subtle scenes as the two dance around their feelings (sometimes literally) and get to know each other. Avoiding eye-contact in a surprisingly-shabby clothing store, hiding unspoken glances behind sunglasses at poolside, The Bodyguard might get written off as a melodramatic slush-fest by cinematic snobs, but moments like these draw you in to what is ultimately a clash of two different worlds between two very different people. Truthfully, Kevin and Whitney don’t look like a couple (and no, this isn’t meant in an interracial context) – but perhaps that’s sort of the point.
The narrative is also reasonably predictable in how it all plays out, yet there’s also a few nicely-played red herrings inserted along the way. For the most part, the action sequences are well executed by British filmmaker Mick Jackson, who often creates a surprising amount of tension and realises that fight scenes are more effective when they’re brief and brutal. There’s a nice one-on-one kitchen scrap when Mike Starr’s former head of security takes offence to being left behind, but the most thrilling section comes when Frank and Rachel’s inner-entourage retreat to his father’s secluded home in the snowy woodlands.
Though more attention is paid to Costner’s unusually cropped haircut than anything else, he’s a good fit for the stoic, reserved man of few words, and there’s a good argument to be made that Frank Farmer is among his best screen performances. As for Houston, whilst most single out her musical contribution given the phenomenal success of the soundtrack (which sold something in the region of 37 million copies, includes five hit singles, a couple of Oscar-nominated tracks and the most memorable ballad of the decade), she’s also a natural screen presence. Sure, it’s not much of a stretch for her to play a singer-come-actress, but in her feature acting debut she’s equally convincing as both the high-maintenance diva and the misunderstood celebrity, whilst never looking out of her depth against such a seasoned leading man.
Elsewhere, the casting is perfect from top to bottom, from Gary Kemp as Rachel’s oily publicist to the great Bill Cobbs as her parental manager to Ralph Waite as Frank’s salt-of-the-earth father. As mentioned, though much is rightly made of the soundtrack (so much so that this is the third mention of it in this review alone), Alan Silvestri’s overlooked instrumental score is pitch-perfect throughout, while Kasdan’s dialogue offers a few quotable zingers. See, for example, Frank replying to a female admirer’s ice-breaker of “I’ve been watching you all night from across the room” with the crushing retort, “Well then why don’t you go back there and keep watching?”.
Though still remembered by many for its insanely-popular soundtrack and that ballad, The Bodyguard remains a satisfying guilty-pleasure and the sort of crowd-pleaser which snobby film-fans won’t admit to liking.