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‘Bodyguards: Secret Lives From the Watchtower’ (review)

Produced by Jaren Hayman,
Jeremy Bieber, Burton Rice
Written and Directed by Jaren Hayman 
Narrated by Kim Coates
Featuring Justin Bieber, Mikey Arana,
Anton Kalaydjian, Scooter Braun
I was pretty eager to watch Jaren Hayman’s Bodyguards: Secret Lives From the Watchtower, because I’ve always had a fascination with physical security.
There are many different kinds of guards and the stark and varied differences between them lend to a fascinating study of the disparate skill sets required depending on the situation.
While overall this is an enjoyable piece of documentary filmmaking there are some pretty serious failures.
First, it starts off rough. The voice over narrative contains profanity and while Kim Coates has a great voice, the early part of the script is weakly written. You are dealing with tough, hardened men and women and it isn’t surprising to hear them use profanity during the interview segments, but to have your voice over narrator dropping F bombs seems cheap and unnecessary.  In fairness the narration improves steadily, but it is almost like two different scripts.
I also struggled with the editing. There are a number of story lines and Hayman seems to be more interested in jumping back and forth and back again than letting each one develop on its own. While the entire film is just over 90 minutes, it could have been a bit longer because some of the subjects were truly fascinating and I would really have enjoyed seeing more of them and hearing more of their stories.
The former bouncer who runs protection for a lot of big celebrities is a pretty compelling figure. He tells a story of how he built his street cred with G Unit and 50 Cent. It’s an amazing story.  This guy probably could have filled two hours of celebrity insanity.  We don’t hear enough stories from him. He name drops a ton, but we don’t get a lot of depth. Another celebrity bodyguard who runs Justin Bieber’s protection is also a pretty interesting guy, but we spend a lot of time hearing from the Beebs instead of the bodyguard. Sidebar: Justin Bieber seems like a very lonely guy.
The most compelling part of the film is when Rory Steyn and Jason Tshabalala take the screen. Hayman spends a lot of time giving you some history of South Africa and how Nelson Mandela’s ascension to the presidency created an historic challenge for the entrenched white protection detail and Mandela’s personal protection.  They spend some time on a fictional version of this in the Morgan Freeman/Matt Damon film, Invictus, but it doesn’t come close to hearing it from Steyn directly.  He talks in depth about confronting his own racism and how his mindset was forced to adapt to a new view of the world.  It is heartfelt, honest and moving.
Documentary storytelling has to connect us to the subject and Hayman’s overall work does a reasonably credible job of doing that.  If you are already interested in the subject matter you will probably enjoy Bodyguards. If not, I suggest passing this one by.
3 out of 5 stars

 

Bodyguards: Secret Lives From the Watchtower
is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD

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