The Bodyguard (1992)

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Directed by Mick Jackson
Written by Lawrence Kasdan

Rated R

Kevin Costner as Frank Farmer
Whitney Houston as Rachel Marron
Gary Kemp as Sy Spector
Bill Cobbs as Bill Devaney
Ralph Waite as Herb Farmer
Tomas Arana as Greg Portman
Michele Lamar Richards as Nicki Marron
Mike Starr as Tony Scipelli
DeVaughn Nixon as Fletcher Marron

The Bodyguard is a standard romantic-thriller, effective and entertaining, largely due to the appeal of the two leads. Kevin Costner plays Frank Farmer, a former Secret Service Special Agent who now provides security for private celebrities. Costner was at the top of his professional peak here: he won Oscars for Dances with Wolves in 1990, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and JFK were released in 1991. The Bodyguard was his last huge hit before the box office momentum slowed on his films. He is stoic and believable in this role.

Of course, the main attention was on Whitney Houston. Did she successfully make the transition from huge pop star to actress? The answer is yes. Even if Houston was playing a diva-like variation on herself, she did it well. This was Houston before the drugs and the scandals, and even if watching her playing an Oscar-caliber actress seems like a stretch, I was able to suspend my disbelief. I enjoyed Houston in this film.

The plot is standard thriller stuff: Rachel Marron is a megastar, an actress/singer being stalked by a mysterious watcher, and her security is lackluster. Her manager (Bill Cobbs) recruits Farmer to protect her, and despite Farmer’s ambivalence to work with the flippant, spoiled star, he agrees. Rachel resists having an intense new bodyguard, content with her passive, mobster-wannabe watchdog Tony (Mike Starr). Eventually, Rachel learns the seriousness of the situation, and places her trust in Farmer.

But not before they confront their attraction. The scenes with Costner and Houston are sweet, and they convey some chemistry, even though it’s not sizzling. The movie wisely avoids a lovemaking scene, despite the fact that the film is billed mainly as a romance.

Meanwhile, the plot is not entirely cliché and predictable, and it kept me interested despite almost-too-long running time.

Costner was a huge movie star when this film was released, and Houston was pop music royalty. She is a solid actress, as she would prove in later films Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher’s Wife (1996). The film’s biggest draw became the soundtrack, with Houston’s soulful, signature cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”

The film lingered in development limbo for years, with Diana Ross originally attached to the Houston role. I am glad the film was made with Costner and Houston. The Bodyguard is not groundbreaking, but it is entertaining – and a great reminder of what a treasure we had in Houston.

Oscar Cred
“I Will Always Love You” was ineligible since it was not written for this film. But “I Have Nothing” and “Run to You” were nominated for Best Original Song. They both lost to “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.

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