Bodyguard, The

Kevin Costner

Whitney Houston

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I think the main reason behind my not watching The Bodyguard until it recently aired on Japanese TV was, perhaps, the song. Theme songs for movies have a way of defining the film experience especially when it is saturating the airways like Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On”and, more recently,Disney’s “Let It Go.” It was the same for The Bodyguard. You couldn’t flip the radio station 3 times without coming upon it. Listeners would sing it (or attempt to, anyhow, as precious few can even dare to imitate Houston’s talent for more than 20 seconds without letting their unskilled cats out of the bag). So when I sat down to enjoy what I expected to be Whitney Houston’s Purple Rain, I was delightfully surprised to find it to be a well written, carefully sculpted thriller with strong performances by its two leads.

Costner plays Frank Farmer, a, um, bodyguard who begins the film by saving his charge from an assassin in an underground parking lot. Having eliminated the threat, he offers his resignation despite an offer of a permanent position by the Scotch swirling, pony-tailed rich man. Farmer arrives home to unread mail and newspapers, a bodyguard’s life is a lonely thing. His pal Bill Devaney offers him a position with an actress/singer Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston) who has begun recently to receive viable threats on her life most significantly, a bomb disguised as a doll. Farmer doesn’t do celebrities so he initially refuses but eventually agrees to scope out Marron’s security in the capacity of a consultant.

When Farmer arrives, the interphone is as functional as a downtown McDonald’s drive-thru speaker. No one asks his name or business. It’s interesting to see his quick eyes scrolling over all of the insufficient security breaches until he meets the lady of the house, who is seated in a lawnchair on the set of her newest music video. We hear her voice but don’t see her face until Bill asks her to stand up and meet Frank. It’s a great moment as Frank seems to have already decided that he was right not to want to protect her or any celebrity for that matter. He didn’t count on her being beautiful and charming and in the short time it takes her to stand up and do a 180, we, along with the heretofore stoic Farmer are swept off our feet. Whitney Houston, whose singing voice is rich and powerful with a stamina unattainable save for a few living singers and most of them in the jazz or operatic world, surprised me with her soft and kind speaking voice and lovely smile. I, like Frank, expected a stuck-up pop princess but got a truly beautiful and creative being.

Identifying the security lapses as lost causes, he takes his leave. His credentials are championed by Bill but challenged by the obligatory slimy agent Sy Spector (Gary Kemp) whose long hair and British accent are shown in stark contrast to the clean cut Farmer and oafish head of security Tony Scipelli (the great Mike Starr). Farmer is convinced by Bill to take on the job.

Farmer’s improvements to the estate’s security include enlisting her charming chauffeur as his assistant stating laconically, that “the overconfident driver is always first to die.” They are a sort of master class in security. Despite all of Farmer’s precautions, there is the undeniable fact that Rachel Marron is a very public figure who, as slimy Sy proclaims at one point, “needs to sing to survive.” It is a mark of the cracking good script by Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, The Force Awakens) in that it shows the true hardships of fame. We see Marron put on her game face before appearing to fans and how quickly their fawning on her gets out of hand as they seize her after her stage dive and take off with her glittering body attired in metallic SciFi like fashion.

Along the way, a relationship between Farmer and Marron blooms as the stalker/assassin draws closer and shocking information is revealed about the identity of his confederates. Houston’s shy way of asking Costner out is so appealing that I couldn’t stop grinning like an idiot. Their chemistry is very natural and endearing as is the mystery which plays out to its thrilling, suspenseful, and intelligent end.  I was surprised that even the ending theme song, as notorious and infamous as I had previously beheld it to be has its own back-story making the listening of it a different experience.