Sunday, March 9, 2014

#1,301. My Bodyguard (1980)

Directed By: Tony Bill

Starring: Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin, Matt Dillon

Tag line: "Terrorized in the toilets? Chased After School? Shaken down for your lunch money? GET A BODYGUARD!"

Trivia: The film ranked #45 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies

My Bodyguard was one of the first movies I saw on cable TV; it premiered on HBO around the time my family signed up for the service. Because it played constantly that first month, I'm betting I saw the film at least 6 times - start to finish - over the course of a few weeks. 

More than three decades later, it’s still an entertaining watch, and with its story of a kid who stands up to school bullies, My Bodyguard is just as relevant today as it was in 1980.

Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace) has a pretty good life. He lives in a posh Chicago hotel with his father (Martin Mull), who manages the place, and a crazy grandmother (Ruth Gordon) who hits the sauce maybe a little more than she should. 

Still, Clifford is nervous because it's his first day at a new school, and he doesn’t know a soul. Unfortunately, the first classmate to pay attention to him is a bully named Moody (Matt Dillon), who, along with his gang, steals lunch money from fellow students. When Clifford refuses to turn his over, Moody proceeds to make his life a living hell. 

For protection, Clifford tries to befriend Ricky Linderman (Adam Baldwin), the only kid in school that Moody himself avoids. Rumor has it that Ricky is out of control, and may have even murdered his younger brother. 

As Clifford soon learns, however, Ricky is actually a shy introvert still recovering from a personal tragedy. The two become fast friends, and as a result, Moody and his crew keep their distance. Clifford even helps Ricky restore his beloved motorbike, but the new pals are caught off-guard when Moody goes out and gets a bodyguard of his own (played by Hank Salas).

It was because of My Bodyguard that I spent the better part of the early ‘80s thinking Matt Dillon was a total prick (it was 1984’s The Flamingo Kid that finally turned me around). He’s so good at playing the bully that I was convinced it was his actual personality; the scene where he corners Clifford in the bathroom, trying to extort money from him, was terrifying for an 11-year-old, who wondered if high school was really like that. 

Adam Baldwin is also effective as the gentle giant, Ricky. The friendship that blossoms between he and Clifford is one of the film’s major strengths, and a scene late in the movie, involving Moody’s bodyguard and Ricky’s bike, nearly broke my heart when I was a kid. By the end of My Bodyguard, I was praying Ricky would beat the hell out of Moody and his cronies. Little did I know the actual ending would be much more satisfying.

I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I last watched My Bodyguard (I'm guessing it's 30 years), and I was anxious to see it again. I always have a great time catching up with movies from my youth, and when they’re as good as My Bodyguard, well… that’s just icing on the cake!