September 22, 1980 12:00 PM

Tony Bill spent most of his career playing second lead to the likes of Frank Sinatra (in Come Blow Your Horn) and Warren Beatty (in Shampoo) before he began producing a string of fine movies including The Sting and Hearts of the West. Now, in his quiet debut as a director, he shows he’s learned a thing or two about the business. The story is simple: After a new teenager in town (Chris Makepeace) is shaken down for protection money by the high school bully, he hires a bodyguard—a huge classmate the other kids whisper once actually killed a man. Naturally, Makepeace and his protector (Adam Baldwin) become fast friends, and the bully (Matt Dillon) gets his comeuppance in the end. The story is affectingly told. Martin Mull, as Makepeace’s harried hotel manager father, and Ruth Gordon, his hilariously eccentric grandmother who tries to pick up out-of-towners at the bar, splendidly complement the boy’s earnestness. As a result, Bill’s first directorial effort has turned into an unpretentious, winning film. (PG)

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