- Movie Rating -

My Bodyguard (1980)

| September 26, 1980

The comedy My Bodyguard made me realize just how few kids in Hollywood films reflect my own experience.  Most adolescents are horned up, drugged out, over-sexed and have ballooned up personalities so supreme that they should run for office.  That wasn’t my experience.  I was short, awkward, had big glasses and bad skin, and was always trying desperately to make friends.

I was also a prime target for bullies, and the one thing that this movie captures well is the sheer horror of that moment when you are cornered and realize that there isn’t an adult around.  That’s why I identified so well with Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace) an awkward kid who has just moved to Chicago with his father (Martin Mull) who has just taken a position as the manager of the Ambassador East Hotel (sweet gig!).  His grandmother loves it because she can sit at the hotel bar and make the moves on nice lookin’ older gentleman and Clifford likes it because the kitchen provides him with meals and access to the gym.

The comforts provided by the hotel are not, tragically, extended to his experience at Lake View High School where, on his first day, an extortionist named Melvin Moody (Matt Dillon) robs him of his lunch money.  I’ll be honest, I was really shocked by this character.  Even the sincerest screenwriter would usually toss this kind of character in the wastebin of cliché but Alan Ormsby is smarter.  He has taken Dillon – one of the most natural young actors – and developed for him the kind of hot-blooded coward, the kind of kid who we sense is probably bullied himself, likes shaking smaller kids down and lets a bigger kid do the dirty work for him – telling Clifford that he will send Ricky Linderman after him.

Ricky Linderman is one of those discipline cases whose deeds reside more in lore than probably in actual fact.  According to corridor rumors he has murdered another student, committed a sexual assault on a teacher, beat up a police officer and probably a dozen other over-inflated fantasies that have bloomed on the grapevine.  This setup has the makings of a quick-buck revenge thriller – Blackboard Jungle meets Death Wish, but Ormsley’s script, again, is smarter than this.  Instead of being terrorized by Ricky, Clifford instead pays him for protection.

But the movie is even smarter than that!  Clifford and Ricky become friends and Ricky reveals himself not to be a dimwitted hulk, but to have real feelings, real problems, real issues in his background.  In other words, he’s just another kid going through this thing called growing up.  The budding friendship takes up most of the movie and I was shocked at how sweet and real it gets, not schmaltzy, but the kind of friendship that any of us might have had.

I have read from other critics that they were put off by the third act, that the fight between Ricky and an even bigger kid named Mike (Hank Salas), but I appreciate the ending, not for the fight, but for the way in which Ormsley lets the film have a life-goes-on feel.  Almost everything in this movie feels organic, as if its coming from the heart, as if its coming from experience.  This is a movie about real three-dimensional characters that we care about, that we get to know, and ultimately, we don’t want anything back to happen to them.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized