The Bodyguard

(Mick Jackson, USA, 1992)


The Bodyguard is one of those mammoth commercial blockbusters guaranteed to bring out the cynic in most film reviewers. What could be more contrived and formulaic than this pairing of Kevin Costner as a stolid, do-right, stoically masculine bodyguard to politicians and show business celebrities, and Whitney Houston as a singing celebrity in peril, ever-ready to belt out a plot-stopping tune?

Writer-producer Lawrence Kasdan (Grand Canyon [1991]) has concocted a largely predictable romantic-thriller mélange, with a little paranoia about the scariness of modern society thrown in for good measure.

Yet the film is surprisingly watchable, and has several intriguing aspects. Best of all is the economic, riveting way that director Mick Jackson (L.A. Story, 1991) strips the action scenes down to a bare minimum: a shot in the dark, a glimpse of a fleeing killer, a sudden trace of blood. Interesting, too, is the manner in which the film explores, without any great ado, the issue of inter-racial sexual relationships.

Italian critic and novelist Umberto Eco once suggested that these days it is smarter to say "As Barbara Cartland would put it, ‘I love you madly’", rather than simply "I love you". The Bodyguard reflects this sort of knowing self-consciousness at every point. Costner is not just a honourable hero; he in fact bases his behaviour on Akira Kurosawa’s samurai classic Yojimbo (1961). The characters do not only live through a tortured tale of passion; they discuss the structure and themes of classic love songs.

This knowingness on the film’s part actually increases the pathos of its star-crossed-lovers premise, and takes it to a level beyond simple action-catharsis. The clash of opposites – a tough guy who cannot let himself fall in love tangling with a woman blinded by the whirlwind of fame – finally becomes rather poignant. The Bodyguard is, in short, a slight but well-handled film.

MORE Kasdan: The Big Chill, French Kiss, I Love You to Death, Silverado

MORE Jackson: Volcano

© Adrian Martin January/June 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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