The Hindi-language film Bodyguard has nothing to do with the Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner love story from 1992, though it does concern an attractive woman and a man hired to protect her, and is a towering geyser of sentiment. But it?s a bit closer to Jason Statham?s Transporter movies, with plenty of over-the-top fight choreography. Except that the male lead isn?t tearing across the countryside in a black Audi. And there?s frustrated ardor. And music-video-style production numbers.
The barrel-chested Lovely Singh (Salman Khan) is a ramrod-straight protector hired by a tycoon (Raj Babbar) to attend to his precocious daughter, Divya (a one-dimensional Kareena Kapoor), at college. Annoyed by his humorless, unflagging devotion to duty, she resolves, with her best friend, Maya (the beguiling Hazel Keech), to distract him by posing as a secret admirer (with an untraceable number) on his cellphone.
But soon her deception lands Lovely and Divya in hot water with her father?s underworld enemies, for reasons not elucidated, and imperils their inevitable romance. This grants Lovely the chance to pummel a horde of scowling grunts in a frenzy of whiplash editing and over-amped sound effects before returning to the fraught courtship.
Mr. Khan, seasoned Bollywood beefcake, is a well-muscled hunk who doesn?t take himself too seriously in fight scenes. (Like Mr. Statham in Transporter mode he manages to doff his shirt in mid-brawl, which prompted howls of delight at the screening I attended.) If only the film?s archly slick director, Siddique, had adopted the same winking attitude toward the romantic arc. A twist near the end sends this contrived movie into a maudlin stratosphere from which it doesn?t recover. But at least, in Ms. Keech?s supporting presence, understated yet palpable, we sense a performer of emerging, and remarkable, star power.