My Bodyguard (1980) – A Review


A review of the 1980 high school drama My Bodyguard, starring Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin and Matt Dillion, about a picked on student who hires the school’s big feared kid to protect him from bullies


Shy and quiet Clifford Peach (Chris Makepeace) lives with his widowed father and eccentric mother in a luxurious Chicago hotel. Always moving around, the Peach family is hoping to finally settle down and put in some roots. First, Clifford has to get though his first day at a new school.

It doesn’t take long for Clifford to be targeted by the feared school bully Moody (Matt Dillion) and his gang. They try shaking him down for protection money. Moody claims they’ll protect him from the mythic and notorious student Linderman (Adam Baldwin), who has amassed a dark legend, that includes once killing kid.

Clifford refuses Moody’s offer and becomes his tortured victim. Now his daily routine becomes getting tripped in the cafeteria, having his clothes ruined in gym class and being tossed in lockers. Clifford gets an idea of hiring Linderman to be his bodyguard and have HIM be his protection from Moody. Linderman agrees and the partnership works! It also gradually leads to an unlikely friendship that both of them have been sorely needing. 

My-Bodyguard-1980-Chris-Makepeace-Matt-Dillon-My Bodyguard is a quiet, simple movie that is a charming tale about teens and friendship. It’s not showy and the story is not complicated. There’s really no surprises where things go. Yet, it’s filled with some genuinely effective sensitive and tense scenes. The young cast are all excellent and make the film feel even more special. It’s a touching story and remains quite timeless.

I used to watch My Bodyguard a lot when it was making the rounds on HBO and would be a regular part of its rotation. It was one of those films that got replayed very often, which is where most people fell in love with it and it became a favorite. Although, My Bodyguard became quite the sleeper hit in summer of 1980. With a budget of only $3 million it would end up grossing $22 million, its cable airings gave it even more of a wider fanbase.

There is something raw and unflinching about the film. It’s not a glamorous looking high-school these kids are at. There’s dirt and grime. The kids aren’t dressed trendy and there’s no pop music on the soundtrack. This isn’t a high school movie where the characters are just trying to get laid, go to parties and the climax takes place at the school prom or anything like that.

It’s not like a ‘cool Hollywood’ version of what high school is like. That makes it feel much more special and real than an ‘afternoon TV movie’ that it could have  

My-Bodyguard-1980-classic-high-school-movie-film-bullyLinderman and Clifford are polar opposites. Small, wealthy and shy compared to working class, big, intimidating and shy. Both are lonely and need companionship in their lives and when they do click you become just as happy as the smiles that gradually crease over their faces as they relax and enjoy their time with one another. When they finally take to the Chicago streets on Linderman’s fixed motorcycle it’s an applause-worthy moment. 

Dillion is terrific as the obnoxious, intimidating school bully Moody. Naturally, it was a very early role for the teen Dillion and his Moody is a very memorable character. Whether he’s bullying in the bathroom, strutting through the classrooms or just staring his prey down, you feel the fear that Clifford has from this guy and it seems warranted.

I have to admit, since seeing My Bodyguard when I was very young, I can’t help but always associating Dillion with the character of Moody. It’s been impossible for me to shake him from this role and whenever I see him I always think of him from this film. 

My-Bodyguard-1980-high-school-drama-Chris-Makepeace-Paul-Quandt-Joan-CusackThe film has a beautiful score by Dave Grusin. It’s an orchestral arrangement of themes that range from melancholy to playful to uplifting. It really compliments the film really well and is enduring. I don’t believe they ever released the score, other than the initial 1980 soundtrack album, which is a shame. Once you hear some of the tracks they’ll stay with you.

Joan Cusack has a small role as one of the students. Paul Quandt is very funny as the the glum, monotone student who Clifford befriends. He has just accepted high school will be a terror and it’s best to surrender to Moody and hand over every penny he has in order to survive. He’s such a defeated kid when he’s introduced you instantly can’t wait for him to crack a smile and get out from under the fear of being bullied.

There’s a small, needless subplot of Mull butting heads with a fellow hotel manager who is trying to get him fired and Gordon’s blasé free-wheeling behavior, which ends up involving uptight John Houseman.

Gordon does her ditzy, free-wheeling attitude, which I suppose was meant to add some comedy to all the heavy high school worry. It’s minor and very inconsequential to the overall film. It all feels like a real detour from Clifford and Linderman’s story and their struggles at school.

My-Bodyguard-1980-Chris-Makepeace-Adam-Baldwin-Paul-Quandt-high-school-movieThat’s the part of the film you’ll be thinking back on and remember. Makepeace and Baldwin as this mismatched pair, happy they’re coming out of their shells and finding companionship with one another. You’re rooting for them throughout, right up to when Dillion pulls out a surprise attack in an attempt to gain back his bully stature in the memorable finale. 

It’s a real winner of a movie. 

Kind of a corny trailer, but you get the idea! 

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