• My Bodyguard

    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: September 6, 2016
    Director: Tony Bill
    Cast: Chris Makepeace, Matt Dillon, Adam Baldwin, Ruth Gordon, Martin Mull
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    Story time. Somewhere around 1984, when our family was somewhat broke, our outside entertainment came in the form of video rentals. Once a month, we headed off to National Video to rent a padded bag with a VCR and three movies for the weekend, available for the princely sum of twenty dollars. And while my eyes and attention were immediately drawn to the cover art on films such as Amityville 3-D, C.H.U.D., and Children of the Corn, I had a couple of issues; one being that my mother was uber-strict about what I was allowed to watch, and the second being that since this was rare "family" entertainment time, my five year-old sister had to be taken into account as well. So, while I should have been enjoying a weekend spent corrupting my young brain with horrific content suited to older audiences, I was instead subjected to hours (these tapes would be rewatched many times over the course of the two-day rental) of Walt Disney cartoons and G-Rated fare like The Apple Dumpling Gang. On one such weekend, however, my mother somewhat relented, and I was allowed to rent a (gasp!) PG-rated movie...of her choosing...with the understanding that I watch it after my sister had gone to bed. After reading the backs of boxes for a less offensive plot description, she chose Tony Bill's 1980 film, My Bodyguard, cementing it in that area of my brain that fondly recalls the films of my youth.

    When his father accepts a job as manager at a prestigious downtown Chicago hotel, Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace) has his home life and school career at a well-regarded academy uprooted as he and his grandmother are moved to the bustling and alien world of the Windy City. While there are definitely a few perks...maid service, daily meals in restaurants, and a well-stocked bar facility for Gramma Peache to get flirtatiously loaded at...Clifford now finds himself as the new kid in a gritty, urban high school. He doesn't do himself any favors on his first day in class, making fun of local hood Melvin Moody (Matt Dillon) for a few laughs from his classmates. Moody makes good on a promise to, "have a talk after class", waiting out Clifford's exile in the library with his hoodlum buddies. Cornering Clifford in the bathroom, he forces him into a business arrangement, in which he will protect the new kid from Ricky Linderman (Adam Baldwin); a quietly menacing student with a rumoured past that varies from teacher rapist to cop killer; in exchange for Clifford's lunch money.

    In one of the dumbest new kid moves ever, Clifford mentions Moody's "proposition" to his father (Martin Mull), who does the responsible parent thing and calls the Principal. Now labeled as a rat, Clifford suffers the wrath of Moody's crew to a greater degree, finding himself tripped in the lunch room while carrying a tray of food, and his locker full of rotten garbage. Getting the lowdown from the few friends that he's amassed as well as a sympathetic teacher, Clifford finds out that Moody has been extorting money from all of the students for protection from Linderman, and decides to head the bully off at the pass. Boldly going where no one has gone before, Clifford approaches Linderman and offers him a cash deal; to be his bodyguard against Moody and his buddies. The reclusive Linderman is angrily dismissive at first, but as he witnesses the helplessness of the little people around him and realizes that he can't shake the persistent Clifford, finally relents.

    With Moody successfully shamed in front of most of the student body, it seems that Clifford's star is on the rise, as grateful new friends come forward to congratulate him. Digging deeper into the mystery that is Linderman, Clifford discovers and even more profound friendship as the two very different boys introduce each other to a world that they otherwise wouldn't have access to; Clifford to Ricky's downtown broken-home existence, and Ricky to Clifford's upscale hotel living. But you can't keep a good bully down, and when Moody retaliates by bringing in a secret weapon of his very own, it threatens to undo everything in a very public showdown.

    The Directorial debut of actor Tony Bill, My Bodyguard amasses some pretty serious talent under one roof; Writer Alan Ormsby (Porky's II, The Substitute), relative newcomers Matt Dillon, Martin Mull, and Chris Makepeace, seasoned actress Ruth Gordon, and the brand spanking new never heard of before Adam Baldwin, Joan Cusack, and the un-credited Jennifer Beals. The cast, for the most part, do a fantastic job, with Dillon and Baldwin already exhibiting the solid acting chops that would carry them through their ongoing and successful careers. The weak link here is actually acting veteran Gordon, who dials in a a caricature of a performance that is only one drunken, "hic!" from being a complete joke. Makepeace is naive and annoying, which helps the role, unintentional or not, but again, it's definitely Matt Dillon in all of his slick-haired, 80's fashion glory that makes this picture so memorable; with Baldwin's standoffish persona (that he would later bring to the TV show Chuck) being a close second. The choice of setting in the film can be credited as another role, specifically the city scenes and Lake View High School adding a gritty and dangerous presence to the film that heightens the atmosphere of danger that Clifford experiences.

    The writing itself, while compelling to some, falls on the side of pedantic; misunderstood tough guy and underdog meet and each needs the other as a friend to help escape whatever prison they've assigned themselves to; but still manages to be more endearing than smarmy, again thanks to the performers. And while David Grusin's score is horrendously annoying, intrusive, and way too full of uplifting flutey arrangements to take seriously, and while the various situations are resolved a little too neatly and predictably, My Bodyguard still manages to maintain a longevity by telling a very basic story that many can relate to, and packs an uplifting and satisfying punch of a finale.


    Kino brings My Bodyguard to Blu-ray with somewhat mixed results, though largely positive. First off, the 1.85:1 AVC-encoded transfer is solid for the most part, with a wealth of grain helping to contribute to the gritty downtown scenes, and a minimum of dirt, debris and damage to be found. Though the picture isn't jaw-droppingly gorgeous or what one could call crisp, the colour palette is well-represented...lots of grays, browns....and softness is limited. It seems to be courtesy of an older master, but is still very watchable.

    Audio is carried by an English DST-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that sounded like it was going to be a disaster, initially, with audio slightly out of synch...definitely noticeable, even though it was off by just a hair. Thankfully, this problem resolved itself after the first 15 minutes or so, but it's disappointing in this day and age that such a flaw made it through QC. Audio otherwise is fairly mediocre; though the dialogue is coherent, the different aspects of the soundstage are not discrete, blending into one another and coming across as blocky and muddled during some scenes. Still, like the video transfer, this serviceable attempt doesn't detract from the viewing of the film.

    No subtitles are provided.

    First up in the extra features is a feature-length commentary with Director Tony Bill, and Wisconsin Film Festival Programmer Jim Healy. It's a wordy commentary with very few breaks, that covers....well, a whole lot about the cast. Expect to hear a whole lot about just about everyone in the cast, and how they ended up being cast in the film, including drawing on Second City talent. Though the two do touch briefly on the film locations and the need to shoot on location to get around zero budget for set building, and squeeze in a bit of conversation about the marketing of the film as a silly comedy...comedy that Tony Bill has no love for...try as he might, Healy can not get the Director away from the subject of casting. Still, it's an entertaining commentary and worth a listen.

    Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the film, and five television spots, that conform to that comedy marketing discussed in the commentary.

    The Final Word:

    My Bodyguard...still a fun film and a slice of 80's Americana. The Blu-ray looks good, even if the sound leaves a bit to be desired.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!