'The Bodyguard' was announced for Blu-ray before Whitney Houston died in February, but her death upped the profile of the 20-year-old movie that featured her most notable role. Recent events have definitely turned an unexpected spotlight on this catalogue release, it's even playing in theaters again next week. Truth be told, I never thought 'The Bodyguard' was a bad movie. In fact it's somewhat enjoyable when you get into in it.
The role of Frank Farmer is tailor-made for Kevin Costner. He can pull off cold and emotionless, with a side of icy demeanor any day of the week. It's one of Costner's better roles, because he's so believable as a quiet, stoic bodyguard for rich people.
Likewise, the role of Rachel Marron seems more than perfectly suited for a diva such as Houston. Marron's life is in danger. She's been receiving death threats, but her managers haven't told her about them. Marron wants to live her rich celebrity life. Putting on concerts, schmoozing with her adoring fans, everything a celebrity at the top of her game does. She doesn't want to be tied down by security protocols and such.
Behind her back, one of Marron's managers, Bill Devaney (Bill Cobbs) hires Farmer to take on the job of protecting Marron from the wackos of the world. Farmer is reluctant at first. He's been the personal bodyguard for plenty of rich businessmen and political figures, but he knows that celebrities are a different animal. In the end he can't say no to the money.
The movie was largely portrayed as a sweeping romance, which is partly true. Much of the movie makes for a functional thriller that knows when to ratchet up the suspense. The movie has always been too long though. Too much time is frivolously spent on extra-long scenes featuring Houston singing on TV or on stage. Yes, we get it. She's a fantastic singer, but turning the movie into a music video doesn't really help the story move along. It's comparable to the amount of errant time in 'Striptease' which is spent watching strippers on stage who have nothing to do with the story or plot. The singing is filler. Whether you have Whitney Houston in your movie or not, you've still got to get through your movie. So ballooning its running time to just over two hours so you can fit in several song numbers really isn't the best use of time.
The real meat of the movie centers around a relationship that begins to develop as Farmer and Marron spend more and more time around each other. At first Farmer is hesitant, but he soon finds out that even he can't say no to her. Their personalities do more than clash. They're constantly at loggerheads with one another. Marron is a wishy-washy celebrity, while Farmer is a set-in-his-ways protector. Yet somehow they come together.
Its thriller aspects are better than I remembered, also. There are quite a few tense scenes throughout the movie that made me feel uneasy. One of those scenes involves a charity concert where a mob-like audience watching Marron perform gets out of control and rips her from the stage and starts carrying her away. Farmer, a hardened veteran when it comes to protecting people is powerless to stop the surging mob of people. It isn't the creepy person sending her death threats, but it's a threat nonetheless. A life-endangering one.
Much of the movie is mushy melodrama, I'll concede that, but what it sets out to do it does well. The thriller elements are there and so is the romance. It may be cheesy to some, but I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did after revisiting it.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Warner Bros. release comes on a 50GB Blu-ray Disc. It's a region free release and is packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.
From the outset you'll notice that the 1080p AVC-encoded image has a problem with the darker ends of the spectrum. Blacks are positively crushing. Shadows consume faces, bodies, objects and detail. Even during well-lit scenes the shadows produced by Costner's brow turn his eye sockets into soft blackish gray pits.
Detail is extremely soft throughout. There really was only one scene that stood out to me in the way of extensive facial detail. Towards the end Farmer and Marron are sitting by the pool and their faces look crystal clear. Other than that one scene faces are normally very soft. Edges blend with the background instead of being distinct. There are soft halos around just about every light in the film giving it that soft 90s feel.
Colors are nice though. The rich hues of California are presented well. The lush greenery of Marron's expansive estate is well rendered. Grain is present, but it appears very natural and filmic throughout. I didn't notice any egregious DNR going on. Artifacting was kept at bay as I didn't notice any blocking, banding or aliasing. The transfer does have its problems, but as far as I could tell it is technically proficient.
'The Bodyguard' sports a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which I had a few problems with. We'll start with the good stuff first though. I thought ambient sound was very well done. Whether it be the screaming of Marron's adoring fans or the hustle and bustle of her busy household I thought that the rear speakers were alive with action throughout the film. Directionality worked well also, even though it seemed rather punchy at times (For example: There's a part where a vacuum is going back and forth across the frame and the sound jumps from one channel to another instead of gliding smoothly).
Now for the not so good. Dialogue is mixed way too low while sound effects are mixed way too high. Much of the dialogue is far too soft, so you may find yourself turning up the volume only to have your ears split the next time there's a gunshot or an explosion. Gunshots were rather annoying here to be completely honest. They're played ear-splittingly loud, especially compared to the other sounds in the movie.
Houston's vocals sound great though, during her numerous performances in the movie. Her voice and the accompaniment are carried through each channel clearly. Like the video presentation, it's far from perfect, but it does a few things right.
There are no new features, just a couple which were carried over from the DVD.
A capable thriller with two actors who were made to inhabit these roles. There's a lot of melodrama thrown in and the movie is overly long. Still, some part of me enjoyed most of it. There are some tense moments that make the movie well worth revisiting. Video and audio presentations are about average for a flick from the early 90s. It's worth a look if you're interested.