Category Archives: Directed by Tony Bill

My Bodyguard (1980, Tony Bill)

My Bodyguard is more than a little frustrating. Alan Ormsby’s script either completely changes in the second half–just in terms of how he constructs scenes, how much willful suspension of disbelief you need, whether or not lead Chris Makepeace is ever going to have a story of his own–or director Bill chucked a lot of material in editing. And given Stu Linder’s editing is phenomenal–the slow motion isn’t his fault–and I kind of doubt it. When he can, Linder finds just the right cuts. Bill’s got coverage issues, especially on action sequences–Michael D. Margulies’s photography is always just right though–and Linder still saves them. The second half of the picture’s mess seems to be Ormsby’s fault, with Bill’s approval, of course.

Here’s the thing–My Bodyguard, which is supposed to be this sensitive movie about a sensitive teenager (Makepeace) going to a tough inner-city school and having to convince loner giant Adam Baldwin to protective him from bully Matt Dillon. Makepeace’s home life is different–his dad (Martin Mull) runs a classy hotel. They’re not rich but they pretend to be rich. There’s a lot of class politics in play somewhere in My Bodyguard, but not thoughtfully. They’re just on display as narrative tropes and shortcuts. Kind of like Makepeace. He’s not the protagonist. There’s one scene with him having personality before he’s just Dillon’s target. All of his scenes with Baldwin are a completely different character. My Bodyguard feels like three different scripts forced into this idea of high school protection rackets.

But in the first act, Bill covers it all. Thanks to Linder and Margulies and a very cheerful but introspective Dave Grusin score, the first half of My Bodyguard feels like it’s going to go somewhere. There’s a narrative progress to the school year unfolding, kids doing activities, time moving. It’s not because of Makepeace and his home life subplot (Ruth Gordon’s his sassy, drunk grandmother). It’s because there are supporting cast members with lives going on. Attention to Paul Quandt, Joan Cusack, and Kathryn Grody creates the film’s verisimilitude as it were. It needs to wander aimlessly at times.

Once Baldwin goes from being Makepeace’s mystery thug classmate to his surrogate big brother, which Bill and Ormsby don’t address because My Bodyguard is kind of cheap and it does want to present a working class to yuppie life goal (Mull has to fend off a yuppie underling). It’s got its problems, but it’s also a missed opportunity. The film’s technically marvelous. The photography of the Chicago locations are so good, you don’t forgive Grusin’s soulful saccharine, you allow for it. And Linder’s editing, especially in the first half and during Baldwin’s fight scene in the finale, is marvelous.

Sadly, following Baldwin’s fight scene is Bill’s worst direction in the film. Coming in its last few minutes–Bodyguard cheats out on a real ending, as the second half tries hard to infantilize its teenage characters. Kids movie is only a pejorative if its characters are static. And My Bodyguard does go in that direction in its second half.

Great performance from Dillon. Baldwin’s good with tough material and not the best direction for it. Makepeace has a two-dimensional (at best) character. He’s not unlikable, but he also doesn’t commandeer the role. Gordon’s awesome. Mull’s fun. John Houseman has a nice cameo.

My Bodyguard acknowledges what it could do, what it could be, then it goes the easy route. It’s disappointing, though probably not surprising.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Tony Bill; written by Alan Ormsby; director of photography, Michael D. Margulies; edited by Stu Linder; music by Dave Grusin; production designer, Jackson De Govia; produced by Don Devlin; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Chris Makepeace (Clifford), Adam Baldwin (Linderman), Ruth Gordon (Gramma), Matt Dillon (Moody), Martin Mull (Mr. Peache), Paul Quandt (Carson), Craig Richard Nelson (Griffith), Joan Cusack (Shelley), Kathryn Grody (Ms. Jump), and John Houseman (Dobbs).


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Crazy People (1990, Tony Bill)

Crazy People is distressingly tepid. It has a number of fine performances–Dudley Moore’s sturdy and likable in the lead, Daryl Hannah’s outstanding as his love interest and the supporting cast’s so good I’m going to wait a while to talk about them to go out on an up note. But the film itself? Very tepid. Like they threw in curse words to guarantee an R rating when it really could have been PG.

Strangely enough, writer Mitch Markowitz does a great job with the swearing. He just doesn’t do enough of it.

The film concerns an institutionalized ad writer (Moore). It’s more of a retreat, really–there’s the kindly doctor (an underutilized Mercedes Ruehl) and friendly fellow patients. Moore recruits these patients to write honest (and very) funny ads.

But then Markowitz runs out of story. Sure, People only runs ninety minutes, but there are long gaps without Moore or even his fellow patients. Instead, the picture concentrates on J.T. Walsh’s odious advertising executive. Not even Paul Reiser, as Moore’s friend, sticks around for the entire runtime. And Ruehl gets an unceremonious boot.

Luckily, the actors playing the patients are outstanding. David Paymer’s probably the best, but Paul Bates and Danton Stone are both good too.

Ben Hammer’s fine as the evil doctor–People has a big problem with internal logic; an evil doctor doesn’t make a good villain.

Besides an annoying score from Cliff Eidelman, it’s technically proficient.

The parts are funnier than the final product. Much funnier.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Tony Bill; written by Mitch Markowitz; director of photography, Victor J. Kemper; edited by Mia Goldman; music by Cliff Eidelman; production designer, John J. Lloyd; produced by Thomas Barad; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Dudley Moore (Emory Leeson), Daryl Hannah (Kathy Burgess), Paul Reiser (Stephen Bachman), J.T. Walsh (Drucker), Bill Smitrovich (Bruce), Alan North (Judge), David Paymer (George), Danton Stone (Saabs), Paul Bates (Robles), Dick Cusack (Mort), Doug Yasuda (Hsu), Floyd Vivino (Eddie Aris), Mercedes Ruehl (Dr. Liz Baylor) and Ben Hammer (Dr. Koch).


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