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A well-known entertainer, stalked by an obsessive fan, hires an ex-Secret Service agent to protect her, and the two fall in love.
For more about The Bodyguard and the The Bodyguard Blu-ray release, see the The Bodyguard Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on March 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, Gary Kemp, Bill Cobbs, Ralph Waite, Tomas Arana
Director: Mick Jackson
» See full cast & crew
The Bodyguard Blu-ray Review
Houston, we have a problem.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, March 23, 2012
Reaction to the recent death of Whitney Houston has predictably been split along two diametrically opposed viewpoints. One camp inists it was a completely unsurprising result of Houston's well publicized bouts with substance abuse. Others lament the sad pasing of a superstar who many consider the finest pop vocalist of her generation, no matter what the contributing factors. That debate will no doubt rage for some time to come, but it's notable that at Houston's memorial service, while there were allusions to Houston's troubled past, some of the most insightful commentary actually came from Kevin Costner, especially when Costner recounted Houston's incipient insecurities as she took on her first film role in The Bodyguard after having established herself as one of the top selling music artists of the previous several years. The Bodyguard had been stuck in development hell for years and years—it was originally announced as a vehicle for Steve McQueen and Diana Ross—and judging by the final product here, it probably could have used a little more time there. The film was enormously popular and spawned the biggest selling soundtrack album of all time, an album propelled to the top of the charts by Houston's now legendary rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You". But popularity isn't always a sufficient arbiter of inherent worth, and looking back on The Bodyguard now from the vantage point of a couple of decades, the film certainly seems creaky and contrived, one that manages to get by (barely at times) mostly on the star wattage of Costner and Houston.
Houston portrays music and film superstar Rachel Marron, one who easily traverses the world of both music and cinema and is an Academy Award nominee. Rachel has been receiving threatening messages (and more) from a stalker, and she needs help. Enter the stalwart Frank Farmer, a former Secret Service Agent who had been assigned to Presidents Carter and Reagan and is still nursing emotional wounds for not having been working the day that Reagan was shot. (In a completely irrelevant but kind of funny aside—there is a real actor named Frank Farmer, he is Golden Age star Frances Farmer's nephew and he has a number of television and film credits, including a bit in the Elizabeth Taylor film Butterfield 8.) Frank and Rachel initially mix somewhat like oil and water, which of course in screenwriting shorthand only means that true love can't be far behind.
Anyone who has seen any film where we have a damsel in distress knows that nine times out of ten one of the supporting characters will turn out to be the culprit, so it shouldn't come as any huge surprise to state that Kasdan follows that longstanding tradition here in The Bodyguard. The usual suspects here include Rachel's manager, her previous bodyguard whom Frank replaces, her sister who lives in Rachel's rather immense shadow, and a former co- worker of Frank's who becomes involved in a romantic (or at least a sexual) subplot. Kasdan seems to flounders throughout his exposition here, not really positing any Agatha Christie-esque red herrings to throw the inquisitive viewer off into dead end tangents, and certainly coming nowhere close to the brilliant twists and turns of Body Heat.
Lawrence Kasdan evidently wrote his first draft of The Bodyguard back in the seventies, several years before the writer (and ultimately writer-director) became something close to a household name with such fare as The Empire Strikes Back and, perhaps more a propos to The Bodyguard, Kasdan's brilliant rebooting of film noir, that "other" body film, Body Heat. Though it's probably inevitable that Kasdan reworked his material in the two decades between the originally planned McQueen – Ross version, it simply can't be denied that The Bodyguard is simply nowhere near Kasdan's finest work, and in fact rests rather near the bottom of Kasdan's rather impressive oeuvre. As a thriller, this is a film that advertises its culprits fairly non subtly (especially when there are few likely suspects in terms of featured supporting roles), and then does the unsubtle bit one better by splitting the difference between a couple of characters when push comes to shove. And as a romance, The Bodyguard is often just plain silly, despite the inherent charms of both Costner and Houston.
There was a disparaging critical comment several years ago about the Broadway musical version of Jekyll and Hyde that the show was "all about the hair," meaning the different styles that would suddenly appear on the main character's head, depending on what side of his dual personality was currently in control. Kevin Costner came in for similar critical brickbats with regard to his close cropped locks in The Bodyguard, a style choice the actor himself is on record as stating is an homage to the first announced star of the film, Steve McQueen. But Costner seems to be "doing" Steve McQueen in more than merely hair style here, with a taciturn, tamped down performance that is strangely unsympathetic at times. His Frank Farmer is all about business, meaning protecting Rachel, which means that the romantic angle feels like an odd graft onto a character who doesn't seem to have those kinds of feelings at his beck and call anyway. Houston is of course completely typecast as a diva, though her spoiled rich girl Rachel routine might have seemed more of an actorly stretch back in the nineties, when Houston's public persona anyway was more of a good girl who was doing all the right things personally and professionally. There really isn't much sexual heat between Costner and Houston in any case, perhaps because of Houston's self-confessed nerves about landing her first bigtime movie role, or perhaps due to Costner's choices in playing Frank so close to the vest so much of the time.
Director Mick Jackson keeps things moving reasonably well, though the film probably could have benefited from some judicious cutting. The film often works as a series of proto-music videos for Houston strung together with the thinnest of dramatic thread. Some of the set pieces here are more than a bit on the silly side, including the "big finale" at the Academy Awards, which lapses into such ludicrousness that it's hard not to laugh. Jackson also indulges in directorial clichés on more than a few occasions, including the big "circle the embracing lovers with a rotating dolly shot" climax. One has to wonder what Kasdan was thinking with the film's coda, where a priest intones the 23rd Psalm (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me) while Costner looks on protectively from the background. Are we really supposed to draw a religious parallel between Frank Farmer and the Lord?
Houston's best moments here are, for better or worse, the music elements, sequences where her innate abilities cut loose and really connect with the audience in a way that her dramatic performance is never really able to. There's absolutely no doubt that Houston "acts" the lyrics of her songs, and it's in these kind of performances that a tether between the singer and her audience is established, one that her enduring legacy proves can never be broken, no matter what the ultimately sad circumstances of her later troubles and eventual death may have been.
The Bodyguard Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Bodyguard is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Brothers with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Revisiting the film now some two decades after its original release, what strikes the viewer more than anything is how surprisingly dark so much of the film is. Large swaths take place in dimly lit interior scenes, where shadow detail is on the murky side and fine detail all but disappears except in extreme close-ups, especially in the many blue-hued moments. This transfer boasts much better saturation than previous home video releases (as should be expected), but it still is hampered by an overall softness that is apparent throughout the film. In the few really brightly lit scenes (such as some of the outdoor footage at Rachel's palatial Hollywood estate), things really pop quite nicely, with appreciably greater fine detail, but even then there's a certain haziness to the image that may bother some expecting digital perfection from a relatively recent catalog title. There doesn't appear to have been any over indulgent grain removal or digital sharpening here, and so the film, while dark and somewhat soft, boasts a suitably cinematic appearance.
The Bodyguard Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Bodyguard's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is quite impressive on several levels, opening with a literal bang and then proceeding through a rather surprising use of LFE in the first sequence as both gunshots and an explosion catapult across the soundfield. Surround activity here is limited mostly to opening up the musical elements featuring Houston, all of which sound absolutely great in this lossless environment, as well as adding occasional immersion in ambient environmental effects, especially in crowd scenes where a real sense of directionality is achieved with some excellent use of discrete channelization. Fidelity is top notch throughout this rendering, with dialogue and score very well represented. Dynamic range is also surprisingly wide for a film of this type.
The Bodyguard Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Bodyguard Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's obviously a very bittersweet experience watching The Bodyguard now, given recent events. Houston may not have had the chops to really develop an outstanding screen career, but she had charisma in abundance, and that comes through quite clearly in this film. The film itself is another matter entirely. This early effort from Lawrence Kasdan is just too clunky for its own good, despite some effective moments scattered amongst the clichéd debris. Warner had planned on releasing The Bodyguard this year all along, but moved up the release with the news of Houston's untimely passing. That may strike some as capitalizing on a sad circumstance and revealing a certain venality on the part of the studio. Be that as it may, for better or worse The Bodyguard is probably going to be the film that most people will remember Whitney Houston for, in terms of her not very impressive screen career. This Blu-ray presentation offers a somewhat underwhelming video presentation, but outstanding audio, something that certainly should appeal to Houston's legion of adoring fans. Perhaps if Warner hadn't rushed this release they could have done a more fitting retrospective of the singer's career as a supplement, instead of porting over previously released material. This film has frankly left me pretty cold from its release, though it has its proponents. Fans will probably want to pick up this release one way or the other, and for them The Bodyguard on Blu-ray is recommended, albeit with some caveats. Others who are merely curious may want to rent this first to see if they are motivated enough to include it in their personal collections.
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The Bodyguard Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Bodyguard Blu-ray - December 14, 2011
Next year, Warner Home Entertainment will bring The Bodyguard to Blu-ray. This box-office hit stars Whitney Houston (Waiting to Exhale) as a fragile pop star who falls in love with the ex-Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner, The Untouchables) hired to protect ...
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