My Bodyguard Reviews
My Bodyguard is a film I find myself comparing to Three O'Clock High as both films are packed with 1980's tropes and deal with the concept of going up against a high school bully. My Bodyguard is widely considered to be of superior quality. My feeling is quite the opposite. Three O'Clock High had some serious themes to it, but the brisk pace and intentionally cheesy mood of the experience made it more of a gun experience. My Bodyguard decided to take itself seriously, but it did it in the most wrong way.
The atmosphere in My Bodyguard is the most essential fault into the feature. The subject matter in the film has a very edgy nature to it since it deals with the legitimate concept of bullying, but it is too trapped in its 80's roots to find anything sensible to do with it. The film refuses to embrace the cheesy conventions of an 80's high school film but also neglects the notion of taking a serious approach to its subject matter. As a result, My Bodyguard is an awkward attempt at a character study relying on characters more than subject matter yet neglecting the need to develop the characters enough to justify it. With such a low budget, Tony Bill does not have the backing to actively explore anything in the film and instead decides to play it safe by creating an overly lighthearted feature which feels more comedic than anything. And yet even though the film feels like a cheesy 80's comedy with its thin script, the film isn't funny. I don't get what tone the film was trying to establish because the subject matter of the story includes bullying and bereavement, and yet it spends so little time dealing with this. Instead, the film is just a cheesy tale of friendship between unlikely companions with a ridiculously light nature about it. And although Dave Grusin's musical score is nicely composed, it is the most obvious thing reinforcing the light nature of the atmosphere.
The film essentially chronicles the developing friendship between Clifford Peache and Ricky Linderman against the backdrop of a bullying related story while pretending that there is actively anything meaningful to take away from the film. The only message I found in My Bodyguard was that you shouldn't judge people without getting to know them, but I've had this message drilled into my head by countless people, primary school classes and superior films. I go to school to learn that kind of sentimentality, I go to movies to be entertained. In the case of My Bodyguard, I was not entertained. The tonal inconsistency was made all the more worse by the fact that the low-budget nature of the film ensures that it has no money to spend on anything. This means that it has to milk its thin script for all it can, stretching an episode of a 1970's sitcom into feature length through extensive periods of nothing but talking. Even with all the talking that goes on, My Bodyguard is full of nothing but underdeveloped characters. When the musical score and cheesy plot elements are not turning My Bodyguard into an unfunny comedy, they are just dragging the film on with a blank atmosphere that has literally no feeling to it. For the entire time in My Bodyguard, either I was feeling nothing or questioning why My Bodyguard insisted on pretending there was anything funny about a film where the titular character is responsible for killing his own brother.
All this leaves the experience dull and lifeless, and the cast are essentially left to follow the same meandering path.
Chris Makepeace is a forgettable lead in My Bodyguard. In the first leading role of his career, Chris Makepeace keeps in tune with the lifeless nature of the entire film around him and brings nothing charming or charismatic to his character. Although he should have the appeal of being the one character to take a stand against a bully on either a serious level or in the context of being an 80's movie archetype, he is just a lifeless and thinly sketched protagonist among a crowd of far more notable supporting archetypes. I don't blame the actor too much because he is just a child star in a film which should have challenged him and audiences more, but there is just no memorable charm that Chris Makepeace has to boast about.
But I will admit that Adam Baldwin is the standout of the cast. He has the most interesting character to the story as a misunderstood boy with a brute stature. Perceived and characterized by the other characters as a criminal, Ricky Linderman is actually just an emotionally damaged and misunderstood boy. Adam Baldwin's performance doesn't require too much engagement as the character is actually just an everyman, and although the blank atmosphere of the film may oversimplify him to the point where he is just another underdeveloped character, Ricky Linderman benefits from having Adam Baldwin in the role. His simple stature alone is a good fit for the part, but so is his ability to instinctively deliver lines with a subtle gritty nature to them which leaves implications of intimidation. As the story progresses and this breaks down, we see a more likable side to the character and find Adam Baldwin able to work with some really dramatic moments. They are sporadic, but they work. Adam Baldwin's debut in My Bodyguard proves to be an effective justification for the existence of the film even if the material around him is lack in adequate sufficiency.
Matt Dillon's natural persona has its appeal to me as a fan of his and the many films he did in the 80's, and Ruth Gordon at least has a sense of humour about herself even though she is a strange comedic stereotype who just detracts from the focus of the story whenever she is around. But both actors are stuck with thin character archetypes, and the rest of the cast do not carry the personal gimmicks that come with these actors to sustain anything. The only one who stood out was Paul Quandt, and that was for playing a repetitively annoying wimp.
So My Bodyguard is a lifelessly slow story with an overly familiar message and a massive incosistence in tone, ensuring that it does not have the grit to embrace its edgy premise or a sense of humour to actively embrace its overtly 80's nature.
My Bodyguard is about a high school student, oddly named Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace), who is encountering trouble at school. After unwisely insulting a school bully nicknamed "Moody," (played wonderfully by Matt Dillon) he becomes a target. They want him to give them their lunch money, for protection. From who? "From themselves, of course, but that's not what they say.." no, indeed. They tell him they're trying to protect him from a big, tough kid named Ricky Linderman (played by Adam Baldwin in his film debut).
Clifford is somewhat small, he doesn't know how to fight, and he's not very intimidating, thus, he can't really defend himself. So, what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in intelligence and cleverness. He decides that he wants to pay Ricky Linderman "to be my bodyguard." This is where the movie really begins, and makes an excellent turn.
Linderman is somewhat of an outcast and a loner at school, presumably because of his size, and some unkind rumors milling about the school. He has a reputation for being a psychopathic menace, but as it turns out, he's just a normal kid who experienced a tragic event. Clifford decides to get back at Moody with Linderman watching his back. Linderman is at first a little hesitant to accept Clifford's attempt at creating their friendship. Then, one day after Clifford is caught following his "bodyguard" home, their wonderful, unlikely friendship begins. The bonding sequence between these two unlikely companions is really satisfying to watch.
Not only does Linderman help Cliff, Cliff helps Linderman. Linderman begins to open up, alleviate his shyness, and relate better to people. He begins to understand that there are friends out there, and we all need support. This character transition that Baldwin makes is extremely well-acted and very convincing.
Clifford, we later learn, isn't the only one with tricks up his sleeve. Some scenes later in the movie, like Linderman getting pushed around by another tough kid, are a little difficult and painful to watch. The scenes about Cliff's grandmother (played by the wonderfully funny Ruth Gordon) and Martin Mull as his father trying to keep her under control in the bar of the hotel he manages, don't really go with the other scenes, and are almost like a film-within-a-film. That's easily forgiven and forgotten, though, because of the brilliance of the other parts, especially a great fight scene where everything comes together at the end. I haven't seen too many movies where I've liked the ending as much as this one.
The most gratifying thing about this movie, is perhaps the lessons that can be learned. I loved the scene where Clifford discusses the rumors about Linderman with one of the teachers, who more or less implies that we should judge people and form our own opinions instead of listening to rumors and gossip. Clifford is wise enough not to listen to the rumors. It's nice to know that people can be friends, despite differences in their backgrounds, economic status, or social circles. It reminded me of a line from On Golden Pond spoken by Katherine Hepburn: "Sometimes you have to look hard at a person, and realize they're doing the best they can." My Bodyguard does exactly that.
This is a very suitable film as well as great learning material for any teenager, teacher, or parent. The film is perfectly cast and the performances by the teenagers as well as the adults are fantastic. I liked the performance of Adam Baldwin the best, he starts out looking a little sloppy, scruffy, and primitive, but later goes through a transformation to a well-mannered, polite, affable, approachable young man. He is very convincing playing a kid who is tough, scared, sad, and angry at the same time. To make a treasure and a classic movie like this about teenagers and high school was some kind of miracle, and wonderful.
Bullying as a prime subject for a Hollywood Movie isn`t particularly well served - though the weaker `Three O'Clock High` and the bombastic `The Karate Kid` and its subsequent sequels and rip-offs came later in the Eighties - but it is handled sensitively here, in a very under-seen and underrated low-key gem.
Young Clifford (Chris Makepeace) moves to Chicago and a new school, which is a essentially ruled by mouthy bully-boy Moody (Matt Dillon), who regularly demands money from his schoolmates under threat of a beating from reclusive giant Linderman (Adam Baldwin). Clifford, falling foul of Moody and his cronies; makes the effort to befriend the behemoth, finding there to be more to him than initially meets the eye.
Chris Makepeace is eminently likeable as the wimpy lead, and Matt Dillon is a terrifically snidey antagonist in a very early role. His Moody is a spiteful, snottier, younger brother to his vest-clad teens of Coppola`s `Rumble Fish` and `The Outsiders` (both 1983) with any degree of inherent cool subtracted.
Best of the bunch though, is Baldwin, giving an underplayed performance as the misunderstood hulk of the tale. In a shy, troubled role, his Linderman is essentially a gentle giant, yet Baldwin still gives hints to an undercurrent of the possible threat and menace he`d later let loose as Animal Mother in `Full Metal Jacket` (1987) and in the neglected `Cohen and Tate` (1989).
Ex-actor Tony Bill directs, handling the character-based drama well, particularly the confrontation scenes. `My Bodyguard` also benefits from the tone of Dave Grusin`s score, and avoids the over-saturation of soundtrack pop hits afflicting the likes of John Hughes` later teen dramas.
Ruth Gordon is a laugh as Clifford`s randy granny, and the film also includes a role for the ever-excellent Joan Cusack in amongst its cast of future talents. Heart-warming stuff, and never overcooked with sentiment.