Twenty years after its blockbuster theatrical release, The Bodyguard makes its debut on Blu-ray. The romantic thriller stars Kevin Costner in the title role. His Frank Farmer is a by-the-book, former Secret Service agent who never forgave himself for being absent the day President Reagan was shot. Frank has taken to cherry-picking private security jobs, steadfastly refusing to accept assignments involving celebrities. A fat paycheck changes his mind when he’s offered a gig protecting singing sensation Rachel Marron, who has been receiving death threats. The late Whitney Houston made her acting debut playing Rachel, singing several songs throughout the movie, including the megahit “I Will Always Love You.”
Frank doesn’t believe in getting romantically involved with his clients. He’s been down that road before, with poor results. Although their relationship is initially chilly, Rachel warms up to Frank after she realizes how skilled he truly is. Her management has protected her from knowing the full extent of her stalker’s actions, but a nasty backstage note makes her realize her life is in danger. No spoilers here, but suffice it to say that the plot twist involving Rachel’s pursuer is preposterous. What ultimately wins viewers over about The Bodyguard isn’t the thriller aspect, but the chemistry between Costner and Houston.
Twenty years and many flops later, it’s easy to forget that Costner was a genuine, above-the-title star back then. As Frank, he carries himself with an understated confidence. Watch how effectively he deals with Rachel’s previous bodyguard Tony (Mike Starr). He coolly puts Tony in his place after his authority is challenged. Houston acquits herself just fine in her role, slowly revealing Rachel’s vulnerable side after a supremely bitchy introduction. The movie is at its most fun as Frank first sets up camp at Rachel’s estate, casually exposing security flaws and generally pissing off everyone in Rachel’s entourage. At 129 minutes though, the briskly paced first act devolves into a slog. An unconvincing subplot involving Rachel’s jealous sister Nikki (Michele Lamar Richards) doesn’t help. Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay (written in 1975, the special features tell us) and Mick Jackson’s direction can’t keep the soapy story interesting.
The Bodyguard on Blu-ray, presented in 1080p high definition, is a disappointing experience. The image is soft throughout much of the movie. While I’m guessing this was inherent in Andrew Dunn’s cinematography, the fact remains that there isn’t much fine detail to be seen here. Sunny outdoor scenes, such as those by Rachel’s pool, exhibit a more defined image. But most of the movie is hazy. Black crush is a consistently nagging issue. Even in some relatively brightly lit scenes, general details such as the folds in Costner’s suits are smothered even by moderate shadows. I didn’t see any artifacts and the print was clean, so this isn’t necessarily a bad presentation. The movie simply looks dull in high definition.
Thankfully The Bodyguard sounds better than it looks. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix sounds strong during Houston’s singing sequences. The music in general sounds full-bodied, with strong bass and crystal clear vocals. Dialogue is general intelligible, but seems a little buried in the mix at times. Effects such as gunfire and fighting noise are strong, with a considerable amount of presence. The action-oriented scenes feature a fair amount of rear channel activity, especially during the crowed nightclub sequence.
Sure to be disappointing for fans is the lack of new special features. A 26 minute making-of featurette is carried over from the DVD, along with Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” music video. The featurette isn’t bad, containing interviews with the principals (mostly shot circa 2005, except for Houston’s clips, which were much earlier). The Bodyguard was slated for release on Blu-ray prior to Houston’s passing, and Warner might have done well to hold it back. That way they could’ve put together a tribute featurette, since the surviving participants likely have a different perspective on the movie after Houston’s untimely death.