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‘The Bodyguard’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 25, 1992

"The Bodyguard" is a great silly mess of a luv story, a multimedia circus of music videos, entertainment journalism, action thriller and '60s movie melodrama carried by the dream couple of the '90s, Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. As plushly appointed as it is thinly drawn, the film also fails on its most basic level: What does the perky pop diva see in her lichenlike bodyguard, Kevin, a former Secret Service agent who apparently has a goat for a barber? Opposites attract, it's true, but only if there's magnetism. Not with that hair, bucko.

Costner plays steely Frank Farmer, a professional bodyguard who reluctantly protects Rachel Marron (Houston), an Oscar-nominated singer-actress who has been threatened by an obsessed fan. Her otherwise dignified manager (Bill Cobbs) practically has to suck Frank's toes to get him to take on his impulsive client, who is used to having her own way with her toadying entourage. She chafes at the security measures he imposes, he condemns her for endangering her young son. Their verbal sparring temporarily disguises, for Rachel and Frank anyway, the physical attraction that burbles under the surface.

Frank doesn't believe in getting emotionally involved with his clients, but he eventually lets his guard down when Rachel joins him for a Kurosawa movie and then a beer at a cowboy bar. Afterward she goes back to his place, where she toys with his most treasured possession, his three-foot-long samurai sword. The playful moment leads to the off-camera release of passion that director Mick Jackson captures symbolically with a shot of her panties draped over his sword. Ah so.

The next morning, Rachel is enraged when the intimacy-fearing Frank tells her it's over. "It's the job," says Frank, who has never been able to forgive himself for attending his mother's funeral the day John Hinckley Jr. shot Ronald Reagan. Of course, he wasn't sleeping with Reagan, but then nothing about Lawrence Kasdan's story follows. It was written nearly 20 years ago when the writer-director was still scribbling ad copy in Chicago. His attempts to update the story have left it as uneven as wide-wale corduroy and still hoary with period cliches.

Costner, who was probably more alive as the corpse in "The Big Chill" than he is here, learned about the script when he and Kasdan were making "Silverado," and for whatever reason decided not just to produce it with Kasdan and Jim Wilson, but to play a role that was originally intended for Steve McQueen. Though we thought he had modeled himself after a mollusk, Costner acknowledged that it was a homage to McQueen. Houston, who is doing nothing more than playing Houston, comes out largely unscathed if that is possible in so cockamamie an undertaking.

"The Bodyguard" is a classic of show-business hubris, a wondrously trashy belly-flop, proving that no amount of glittering sets and star power can save a story that should have been buried with McQueen.

"The Bodyguard" is rated R for sex, violence and profanity.

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