No wonder this Lawrence Kasdan script has been on the shelf for more than a decade: In the custody of director Mick Jackson, it proves a jumbled mess, with a few enjoyable moments but little continuity or flow. The intriguing romantic union of Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston should power strong initial box office curiosity before “The Bodyguard” fades into the pack of other holiday releases, and the closest this pic will get to an Oscar is in its overblown climax.
Considering its opulent trappings, the film is also surprisingly flawed technically. From the first scene, with bodyguard-for-hire Frank Farmer (Costner) completing an earlier assignment, the story is a chore to follow–choppily edited, with garbled sound that often requires effort to sort out the dialogue.
Those shortcomings are puzzling, since the movie’s core is sheer simplicity: A bodyguard, who fears becoming too attached to his clients, takes a job protecting actress/singer Rachel Marron (Houston) and ends up falling for her. Someone is trying to kill her, and it seems possible a member of her entourage may be involved.
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Blame it on the setting, but the collaboration of Kasdan and Jackson (the one-time BBC director who helmed “L.A. Story”) at times feels like a musicvideo interrupted by a movie, in the process reinforcing Costner’s tough-guy charisma (as opposed to tough-sensitive guy) and providing Houston a flat-
tering showcase for her big-screen unveiling.
At times, in fact, the filmmakers seem more intent on featuring Houston musically (one half expects the cue “Insert video here”) than keeping the narrative moving. Such a miscalculation takes place near the end, undercutting what could have been a crowd-pleasing finale simply because Jackson doesn’t know when to say “cut.”
For all that, “The Bodyguard” isn’t without its pleasures, from Costner silently drubbing his charge’s testy security chief (Mike Starr) to bluntly deflating a predatory partygoer. The problem is that those high points are spaced too far apart, with long meandering passages between the bursts of action , which culminate with a predictable payoff at the Academy Awards.
As for chemistry between the leads, it stems more from their inherent appeal than anything the story develops. Houston makes a solid debut and looks glorious , snapping off saucy dialogue that may come as a jolt based on her somewhat pristine image.
On the flip side, Costner dons his “No Way Out” look in a stoic role as a former secret service agent who fancies himself a modern-day samurai. Kasdan was inspired by Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” when he wrote the script in 1975, and Costner manages to bring some of that quiet intensity to a movie that, if not a setback, for the most part lets him down.
Other cast members are generally sound but their characters are poorly developed.
Tech credits, as noted, are surprisingly poor, with the sound at times cranked up to absurd levels. The aural quality is better on the six new songs for Houston, although at times “The Bodyguard” feels like a soundtrack in search of a movie.