CINEMA / Looking after Number One: The Bodyguard (12)

WHY trust haircuts? They seem such frivolous things, mere chop and change, yet they remain one of the most accurate guides to cinema. Photographs of Harpo Marx at home show a mild, ordinary man; add the wig, however, and all hell breaks loose - a burst of blond bubbles, suggesting that his brain was made of bath foam. It was. Brando grew his hair long for Last Tango in Paris, which suited the louche old goat he was playing; then razed it off for Apocalypse Now, which was perfect for his bloated Buddha. But even he got it wrong with the white locks of Superman: most people thought he had just spent five minutes under a Mr Whippy dispenser. One glimpse, and you knew the film was a no-no.

Now there's Kevin Costner, an interesting variant on the Samson principle. In Dances with Wolves he was thought to be strong and single-minded, but there was something off-putting about his righteousness; how on earth could we have faith in a hero who looked like a Bay City Roller? I prefer the Costner of No Way Out, all white ducks and short back and sides. They get even shorter in The Bodyguard - half-way to skinhead, frankly - and here again he seems to enjoy himself. Mick Jackson's film is wildly unfocused, a snatch of teenage dreaming, yet I found myself warming to Costner as he paddled around in the tripe. However much he wants to play strivers and thinkers, it's nice to know that he can still hack it as a matinee idol.

His character is Frank Farmer, a former Secret Service agent who makes good money by guarding the bodies of the rich and famous. His latest assignment is a rock star called Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston), who has been plagued by threatening letters. She lives in a Los Angeles castle that looks like a birthday cake; the camera cranes high and stares longingly at it, just to make sure that we find it awesome. Frank, by contrast, finds it full of holes, and we have to sit through a jolly musical montage while he puts up a load of boring gates and cameras. 'You have to take more precautions,' he tells Rachel, which is either a security assessment or a slimy way of announcing that he intends to go to bed with her.

Which he does, in due course. To be honest, you won't find a course more due than this. People fall in love, then out, then in again; the rotter turns out to be a trouper, and vice versa; the murderous motive is waved in our faces early on, then left to soak until the end, by which time we don't care any more. This piffle was dreamed up by Lawrence Kasdan, no less, who wrote it 20 years ago, on his way to Raiders of the Lost Ark; even more amazingly, he still thought it was worth filming now, with all its withered toughness. 'You're ready to die for me?', Rachel asks Frank. 'It's the job,' he replies. Wrong, Frank. It's the script.

Jackson, the British director who made LA Story, lets the movie wander around, knowing that it's something to do with profession vs passion, but no more than that. At one point it simply takes a holiday, away from all the stress and strain of the plot; Frank drags Rachel up to meet his snowy-haired Dad in a winter wonderland. It seems a long way to go just to prove that (a) rock stars look cute in cashmere, and (b) Kevin Costner hasn't forgotten how to smile. This is cinema as fabric softener, and not remotely ashamed of itself.

A lot of visual styling gets frittered away - watch out for a shock close-up of a Hoover - while we wait for the moments of climax. One of these comes off well - Rachel turning up at a club dressed like the robot in Metropolis, and almost getting torn apart by her Myrmidon fans. An overhead shot of her body held aloft makes it feel like human sacrifice, with the ritual beat of her new song pumping in the background. But the real finale is a hoot, free of danger and full of make-believe, as Rachel is stalked by her killer at the Academy Awards. That's right: she's up for an Oscar. Famous singer becomes great actress. Hey, guys, you forgot the Nobel Peace Prize]

This is unfair on Whitney Houston, shamed by the freakish character created for her. She'll never be a great actress, but she's not a bad one either - more proud than relaxed, shall we say, refusing to flinch when the camera gawps at her. There's the voice, of course - that customised contrivance, digging deep then swooping up to heady trills - but the film is strangely unmoved by the sound, and pretends to have plenty of drama to be getting on with. Even Frank doesn't go for it: we see him watching her on video, but not a muscle moves in his foot, and later it transpires that he prefers country and western. Oh, great. The final scene, by the way, suggests that Kevin Costner is, in fact, God; so The Bodyguard may be a Christmas movie in more ways than one. It will certainly do for holiday garbage, and the stars twinkle well enough, but it remains fantastically indifferent to love and fame and the whole damn thing. Is Whitney Houston really insecure? This movie has the solution: get a new padlock.

Here endeth my last film review for the Independent on Sunday, which will be music to the ears of many. Thank you to all the readers who have written with advice, corrections and requests for my deportation. To those who have complained that I am down in the dumps, all I can say is, I would have loved to be up in the clouds. For all the climbing ticket sales, these are murky days for cinema, and it is sad to report that the best film I saw in the last three years was a re-release - Bresson's A Man Escaped, made in 1956. Still, let us remember the reasons to be cheerful: The Fabulous Baker Boys (showing tonight, incidentally, on BBC2), Toto the Hero, the rise of Geena Davis and Alan Rickman, the diet of Hannibal Lecter, the liquid villain in Terminator 2 and that line about squirt-guns in Miami Blues. And let us pray for better things in 1993. Happy New Squirt.

Anthony Quinn takes over next Sunday as acting film critic. He will be reviewing 'Tous les Matins du Monde', 'A Winter's Tale' and 'A Few Good Men'.

Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game