In the late 1980s and early 1990s there were no bigger stars in music and film as Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. It made sense at the time to put them together in order to increase their profiles and deliver a sure-fire box office hit. Taking over $410m, The Bodyguard did just that. Originally written with Steve McQueen and Diana Ross in mind, the script hung around Hollywood for 16 years until finally getting made and includes Oscar nominated songs by Houston herself.
Frank Farmer (Costner) is an ex-secret serviceman who agrees to a private bodyguard job dealing with Oscar-nominated singer/actress Rachel Marron (Houston). Having to contend with a sleazy publicist, a jealous sister and a disgruntled head of security, Frank increases protection around the star and slowly begins to fall in love with her.
There is something rather cynical at the core of The Bodyguard, with two central performances that do not manage to ignite any actual spark of passion between them, but clearly both chosen for their parts for the increase in publicity to their own ‘brands.’ Never has there been a more sure-fire hit in Hollywood, with both performers careers going sky-high, put together in a pulp thriller that does not tax either of their talents too much but has an audience-friendly approach to story-telling.
Despite these flaws, there are some redeeming features. Houston is actually convincing, being that she’s playing a version of herself it’s not too much of a stretch, while Costner is excellent as the bodyguard in question, and despite having the simmering tension of a block of wood, individually their characters work. The story itself is simplistic and predictable, but it is a nice throwback to thrillers of the late 1980s and early 1990s like Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction, but with the edges removed.
From the opening saxophone soundtrack, to the impromptu and rather melodramatic rescue scenes, The Bodyguard shoots for iconic, rather than quality. And in this, it’s actually quite successful. Everyone remembers Costner carrying Houston out of a gig-gone-wrong and the individual songs I Have Nothing and I Will Always Love You are more memorable than the majority of the film. Still, The Bodyguard remains a film that is remembered fondly by fans of both Costner and Houston and for iconic scenes, there’s almost nothing that tops it from around this period.