“My Bodyguard” had a first-time director and a cast of unknowns

It made $22 million from a $3 million budget, and basically launched the careers of Matt Dillion, Joan Cusack and others.  Ok, Dillion was in Little Darlings that year, too, but this is the showy role that critics saw.  Chris Makepeace, the nerd from “Meatballs” plays the nerd here, too.  Martin Mull and Ruth Gordon add their schtick, but Makepeace and Dillon really make this film shine.

I would’ve never heard of the film if Roger Ebert didn’t push it so much in his review on “Sneak Previews”.  I made sure I found a theater at my albeit youthful age, and must’ve seen it ten times since.  It’s popped up on television occasionally.

It’s a traditional “school bully” movie, and their were a lot of them around this time.  Dillon plays Moody, and he sure is.  Picks on kids for their lunch money.  Nothing super-violent about this – this isn’t the opening to “Lean on Me”.  But enough to make Clifford, the prep nerd who transferred to a tougher school – worried.

See there’s this big kid in class, Linderman, who rumor says killed his own brother, so Moody extorts protection money from the kids to “protect” them.

Clifford offers to hire the big kid to be his bodyguard against Moody.  And it works, for a while, until Clifford learns about sticking up for himself.

The story is tv-movie through and through and the writer’s career led straight to tv-movies after penning the script to “Porky’s II: The Next Day.”  This isn’t Shakespeare here.

But Dillon shows really slimy menace in being a bully that doesn’t really do anything that menacing.  The way Dillon plays him, you really want to see someone punch his lights out.  The friendship between Clifford and big Linderman really works.  Makepeace makes you root for him here just like in the big race scene in Meatballs.  You really want the kid to win.

Today’s school experience isn’t so tame in some areas, and bullies in this film’s time never did much more than the occasional fistfight.  Without this cast, it probably wouldn’t have struck the chord that it did and make seven times its budget in box office.  But they really captured a lot of young, new talent for this film, and a couple who went on to star careers of their own.

It’s worth a search to find.

The Highlight Reel

Look for cameos from John Houseman, George Wendt, Tim Kazurinsky and Jennifer Beals.  Casting director Vic Ramos had “Star Wars”, “Apocalypse Now” and a dozen other hits from 1977-1981.  He really found talent for every part.

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My Bodyguard Comedy, Drama, Family | 102min | September 26, 1980 (United States) 7.1
Director: Tony BillWriter: Alan OrmsbyStars: Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin, Matt DillonSummary: Clifford Peache is the new kid in Lake View High School. Faced with all the stress that role entails he makes his situation worse by insulting Moody, the leader of a group of toughs who extort lunch money from kids. These punks pretend to be bodyguards for the kids to protect them from Linderman who, it is rumored, killed his brother in cold blood. Clifford befriends the sullen Linderman and hires him as his bodyguard. When Moody ups the ante, Linderman must decide whether fighting for what he believes in, with his haunted past and image, is justified. —Rick Gregory <rag.apa@email.apa.org>


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