- Kenneth Bombace is the CEO of the security firm Global Threat Solutions. Here, he reacts to 10 memorable bodyguard scenes from movies and TV and rates them based on their accuracy.
- Bombace looks at private security details under attack in “Man on Fire” (2004) and “Bodyguard” (2018). He addresses scenes featuring pop stars at concerts and award shows, such as “Taken” (2008) and “The Bodyguard” (1992).
- He also discusses transporting and taking care of political clients, as seen in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (2017) and “The West Wing” season three episodes 20 and 21 (2002), and billionaires like Tony Stark in “Iron Man 3” (2013).
Following is a transcript of the video.
Ken Bombace: That’s part of our job. What I don’t like is that he pulls his weapon immediately. He would probably be the person tackled if he did that.
Hi, my name is Ken Bombace, and I have over 20 years of law-enforcement experience. I’ve led a company as the CEO of Global Threat Solutions, which is a protection firm that provides comprehensive protection services to executives, people of high net worth, and celebrities. And today I’m gonna be reviewing movie and TV clips of bodyguard scenes and rating them for realism.
“Man on Fire” (2004)
Creasy: Pita, you have a pencil?
Bombace: You’re never going to be distracted. You don’t text. You don’t make calls. You’re definitely not gonna be writing something down while you’re driving a client. Protection agents will have what we call a go bag, a tactical bag, a go bag, and you’re gonna have everything you need in there. You’ll even put some food, drinks in there. You might have to sit in that vehicle for hours. To do your job, you’d have a flashlight. You have your laptop with you. You’re gonna have your phone, chargers, backup battery chargers. Something to write with, pens if you have to take notes when your principal’s giving you some instructions or maybe a staff member. These are just some of the things that you might have with you at any time.
And might a protection agent be tasked with watching the principal’s dog while they’re in a meeting or something? Sure, it does happen.
Bombace: You definitely don’t fire warning shots in a situation like this. I understand it’s part of the storyline, but that’s something we don’t do. Your mission, and this applies to every clip that I’ll talk about, in any protection operation is to get the principal off “the X,” we call it. The X being the location of danger, the immediate vicinity of danger. Our job is to get them out of there as fast as we can, and that’s it.
Firefights and shoot-outs, whether in the military or in police, are chaotic and confusing. When I was in the military, obviously I was involved in firefights when I was in Iraq as an army officer. I think they did a pretty good job at depicting a shoot-out like that. For the circumstances he had, with a one-man detail, he did the best he could in that situation.
Creasy: Pita! Run!
Bombace: Some training goes in on their side too, meaning the principal. So, code words, yes, that happens. It can be, maybe you see something that’s suspicious that they don’t know. So you would use a word rather than just say, “Hey, watch out. There’s a threat.” I would give it a seven.
Bodyguard: Ma’am, excuse me, if you don’t mind, I suggest we keep moving.
Bodyguard: Ma’am, let’s go. Let’s go.
Bombace: I’ve done a celebrity detail for a big award show, and when my principal exited the vehicle, he decided to run about a half a mile down a street crowded with fans and slapping all of their hands, and I had to run right alongside of him. There was no telling him not to.
♪ La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la. ♪
Bombace: They’re not gonna be in a room where the celebrity is actually getting changed, but rehearsing, prepping in a green room, absolutely, it’s very likely you would have a protection agent in there.
Bryan: Excuse me, miss. I know this isn’t the right time, but I have a daughter who wants to be a singer, and I was wondering if you had any tips for her.
Bombace: As the CEO of a protection firm, that is what I refer to as a fireable offense. You do not, as your celebrity client is about to head onstage, stop her in front of a group of all of her staff and ask her for a personal favor or a personal opinion. That is something we do not do. Totally unprofessional.
Bodyguard: Waiting on an airstrike. And we’re waiting, and we’re waiting.
[Bryan’s phone rings]
Bombace: They may not be assigned to go out into the crowd, but that does not mean you’re playing cards in the back room. You need to be right backstage monitoring everything, not playing cards.
That part right there, I would say, is pretty realistic. She exits the stage, there’s chaos obviously, this is a large venue, big concert. There’s venue security and venue staff that you have no control over there. So, sure, that can happen. What do they do? They move her quickly and professionally out of there.
Bryan: It’s OK. It’s OK. You’re safe now.
Bombace: You know, they’re human, and you’re human. As long as you’re doing your job, you could obviously support them to make them feel better during this tough time. I’ve had scenarios where principals are emotional and upset over something that happens, or afraid, quite frankly. And they do show their appreciation. You would just wanna guard against keeping boundaries up. You don’t want to get too close in this industry, so you maintain a certain level of professionalism. I would expect him after that interaction to let me know about it, that it happened. I’ll give it a six.
Cookie: Yeah, yeah!
Bombace: I think the fight scene was pretty unrealistic. They’re having a fistfight in the street, but then another subject who was the driver or someone else is assisting and kicking the person on the ground. Could there be untrained people that call themselves bodyguards that do that sort of thing? Sure.
Malcolm: You know, this is a bad neighborhood.
Cookie: Aw, you worried about me? I’m fine.
Bombace: It does happen, where people can be inebriated. They can be belligerent. You have to remember this person is, all intents and purposes, your boss, the principal. So you may rely on staff members that you work closely with, non-security people who work closely with them, or even family members to intervene. You also wanna protect them against things like embarrassment. There’s a famous scene where somebody popped out and hit Bill Gates in the face with a pie. That is a tragic fail for a protection team for that to have been able to happen. Was he assassinated? No. But was he embarrassed? Was he not happy with that scenario? Is that a liability to him as a businessman? Sure.
Cookie: Lucious, Lucious, Lucious.
Malcolm: Are you OK with the way he looks at you? Whatever that is, that’s too intense.
Bombace: Of course, it could happen. Yeah, you can’t leave them during a situation where they could get hurt or they’re vulnerable, of course. So, yes, might you physically have to? You would, if that’s the scenario. And people, you know, principals are people too.
Malcolm: I’ve done a thorough review of both your home and your corporate headquarters.
Bombace: Yes, a comprehensive assessment on an estate or residence and the corporate facility, of course we would do that. But what I would say is you would not do it most likely without the principals knowing about it and assisting, because you wouldn’t have access to everything that you’d need to really do a comprehensive security assessment. That part of it, where he sort of surprised him with it, saying, “I’ve already done it,” there’s only so far you can go.
“Iron Man 3” (2013)
Might you in a certain scenario use your body to tackle or at least shield your principal? Sure, that can happen if there’s a great enough threat to them. Would you do it in this scenario? Probably not.
It’s an unrealistic scenario to begin with, but you would probably not do it. It might be the last time you worked for them. It’s a thinking person’s game. This is not a brute-force game. You need people with an intellect. You need people who can think on their feet, maintain calm when things get hectic. And that could be not necessarily an immediate threat to your principal. You have developed an entire itinerary for the day. You’ve done advanced site visits. And in a moment’s notice they say, “We changed our mind. Now we’re going here, to another state.” Those are the things, you have to be able to adapt and continue seamlessly with your mission.
It takes a certain type of person to be able to do this work. You cannot panic easily. You need to be able to maintain calm at all times. Do we have some people in this industry who are 275 pounds and 6-foot-4? Sure. Is that the norm? Absolutely not. You do want someone who’s physically fit, who has a good appearance that they can do this job. Aesthetics are important, especially for many principals, but we do not need somebody who’s a bodybuilder, who’s a mixed-martial-arts fighter, necessarily, to do this job. That’s a one. I don’t like zeros.
You would want to know as much about them as possible. She even reviewed her social media for anything she might need to know about her lifestyle or any concerns, but also it goes so much deeper than that. We have an onboarding process, really, where you’re gonna wanna know their blood type, you’re gonna wanna know if they have any medical conditions or allergies. In the modern era, you can find out a lot about people just from open-source intelligence, just by using the internet and doing open-source searches.
Zoe: Who do you think you are? My mom?
Bombace: Would you stand around looking like a security agent in the corner of the bar watching them or in close proximity? No. A lot of times what you would do is go sit at the bar or go sit at your own table, act like you’re eating, have a drink, maybe a nonalcoholic drink, and keep an eye on them, while looking, it’s something we would call covert protection. So you don’t wanna be overt. Pretty realistic in every aspect. I’m gonna give it an eight.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (2017)
Executive protection agents don’t have hidden exotic-weapon vaults that they use to choose their weapons for the day. They definitely don’t choose dual silenced pistols. And they also don’t grab them by the trigger when they pull them out of that vault, which is something we learn day one in the military or in the police service, is that, they call it “TF out of TG.” Keep your trigger finger out of your trigger guard. And he violates every one of those rules. Sometimes we travel in motorcades, more than one vehicle, of course, lead and follow vehicles if the threat’s high enough, depending on the size of your detail. They depart and arrive together, however. They don’t join the principal’s vehicle at high speeds and in very close proximity.
Michael: Get the engines started. I want an immediate takeoff. Airspace has already been cleared.
Pilot: Roger that.
Bombace: We definitely do not have the authority to clear airspace in the private-protection industry. I’ve never heard of that happening. Sometimes clients will wait a considerable time on the tarmac before departure. We do a lot of work in Los Angeles and in New York. They will use what we call FBOs. Those are the private air terminals. They will use those at major airports, but oftentimes their FBOs that that we use are in smaller regional airports close to major airports. You probably would not roll out the blue carpet and have a ceremony on the tarmac as you’re getting them into the aircraft. It would probably be a covert departure.
Bodyguard: Nothing for miles, chief. Almost boring.
Michael: And what’s our motto?
Bodyguards: Boring is always best.
Bombace: You would definitely not line up all of your detailed vehicles in this manner, having everybody stand there. This is something I’ve never seen. I can guarantee you they wouldn’t have their private-security helicopter hovering over the runway too. That would not be allowed.
Bodyguard: Bravo one down. We need a cleanup team in here now!
Bombace: They mentioned, “Get the cleanup team in here.” We don’t have cleanup teams for when principals are assassinated. The only cleanup team you’re gonna need is for your career, because it’s probably gonna be over if something like this happens. We have people visit every location. They’re gonna go days in advance, meet with points of contact, plan what route they’re gonna take in and out of that building. We have to plan safe houses. We have to know the closest Level I trauma center in case there is an incident like this where someone gets shot or hurt. We have to have safe houses, which might be a police station close by or someplace we know we can bring the principal if there’s a problem. There’s contingencies for everything. But I can tell you, assassinations like this in principals, extremely rare. I would say, I would give it a one just because I don’t wanna give anybody a zero.
“The West Wing” (2002)
Donovan: In a populated place, a department store, I always walk ahead of you. I don’t like more than five people between us, so if you ditch me because my back is to you, that would be too far.
Bombace: We don’t walk in front of the principal. You don’t do that because you can’t see them. If you’re a one-man detail, like he is in this scenario, protocol would say usually to the rear right, just offset, not directly behind them, but offset to the rear right. Now, they approach a door. Are you gonna just step out in front and maybe get that door for them? Sure. You can do that. You have visual all the time, and you’re staying in close proximity. Might you have a principal that tells you, “Don’t get the door for me. I don’t like people getting doors for me”? Yeah, I’ve had that too. So it all depends on the preference of them, but you’re definitely not gonna walk in front of them, because you know what happens? You turn around and they’re gone.
Donovan: At the risk of being ungentlemanly, I can’t carry bags. My hands always have to be free.
Bombace: People do get bags here and there. Are we used to exclusively do that, and we’re loading their packages and not watching them and jeopardizing security? No, we’re not. Do you help your principal when you’re getting them into a car, put a bag in the trunk and take that for them? This is a customer-service-based business.
Hogan: What is it that you look for exactly?
Bombace: Before he decides he’s gonna walk out and chat with her and tell her a little bit about what he does, you see he glances over to the dressing room area. As far as I could see in the scene, she’s the only one there. He feels comfortable.
Donovan: The guy in the coat.
Hogan: What about him?
Donovan: Beats me. Why is he wearing a coat?
Hogan: I don’t know.
Donovan: I don’t know either.
Bombace: There’s two kinds of things I’d be looking for. One of them would be someone who has an unnatural interest in my principal. They’re watching them. They seem to be in every store they’re in. That would raise alarms for me. Also, there could be a threat by somebody just in regular life, anyplace. That threat might not even know who your principal is or that you’re even there. But sometimes things happen in public where somebody could, maybe there’s fights that could break out or maybe there’s somebody who’s an emotionally disturbed person visibly, you can see. Those are things you would want to keep an eye on. We have a rigorous training program for our agents to conduct protection operations. I would also add that there’s only so much you can do in training for observation skills. Some people have innate, really well, inherent observation skills, but it is also a learned skill. It’s something you have to put time into and discipline, and you can learn it. I would probably give that first scene maybe a four.
But the second scene, I like. I think it’s pretty realistic, actually. So I’m gonna give that one an eight.
Budd: Go, go!
Stay down! The bullets can pierce the windows, but they can’t get through the armored metal. Control. Sierra Zulu seven nine, status zero, Thornton Circus.
Bombace: He’s maintaining calm. He’s maintaining radio communications to make sure he gets help there as quickly as possible. That’s the first thing to do. And he’s trying to keep her calm and guide her in what to do. They have a high-powered rifle that went through the ballistic glass but won’t go through the armor. So he has to stay down, she has to stay down to try and maintain safety.
Would I exit that armored vehicle not knowing exactly where the threat is out there to accommodate that and maybe get a picture with my phone to try and find them? No. That part I think is unrealistic.
[car engine starts]
That other agent, they make it very clear, it’s what we call a DOA, or dead on arrival. That person is not someone who needs medical attention. You might want to climb right on top of them to get that vehicle out of there. This is a dire situation.
Performance driving is being able to do one of those J-turns, which is a fancy way for turning around very quickly and just being able to drive at a high rate of speed in reverse. It’s not that easy. So these are things that you would train in. That’s an armored vehicle. They have special training, which I’ve been to. And my agents, many of them have been to. To drive armored vehicles, they’re much heavier than a regular vehicle. They handle much differently. They stop slower. They accelerate slower.
Budd: Take care of the P.
Bombace: So, he gets off the X. I like that. When he stops, he has his follow vehicle with him. I like that. That’s where the realism stops. The problem with law-enforcement officers, if there is one, using this type of work, is that it’s very different law-enforcement work. Someone has a gun, there’s a bad guy, somebody who’s shooting people, you go towards them. But in protection work, that’s not your problem. I’d give it an eight.
“The Bodyguard” (1992)
That’s part of our job, to take a shot for a client, a principal. What I don’t like is that he pulls his weapon immediately. He spots this person that he identifies as a threat. Nobody else has. He would probably be the person tackled if he did that. I could tell you, in these awards, and I’ve done security at many of them, there’s no weapons allowed. Even off-duty police officers who are now hired to do protection services, at these venues, they’re not even allowed to bring weapons in. Nobody gets weapons in. That’s the idea. It’s a weapons-free environment. What we do is heighten sense of observation, obviously, because it’s a big crowd. The good news is at those large award shows like that, not just anybody could get in there. They’re vetted. People are on a guest’s list with credentials. I’ve worked those lines checking those credentials for people to get in. With that being said, just like in this scenario, can somebody get press credentials? Perhaps. I mean, it doesn’t take much to get them nowadays. And I’ve seen that, where someone with press credentials has gotten into a green room at an event they shouldn’t have been at. They weren’t a legitimate journalist. Everybody probably has their own security. They don’t get to bring them in and sit at their table with them. Those people at most would be backstage, waiting and observing. It’s a rotation. As the celebrities come out, their security person waits and then escorts them back out to their green room or wherever they’re going to exit. Also sometimes I’ve been at events when they hired one company to do all the security for these people. So you would have, though, someone assigned to specifically escorting them back and forth, all of these people, to wherever they’re going, till they get to their own exit or security team. My firm was hired at one point to do large-scale political event with multiple presidential candidates. And I had to provide probably 40 agents, because we would have someone assigned to each one of those candidates the entire time they were there. I’ll give it a six.
Moira: I want to introduce you to someone, John Diggle. He’ll be accompanying you from now on.
Oliver: I don’t need a babysitter.
Bombace: Having clients that oppose having protection services or they have it against their will is something that definitely happens.
John: I don’t want there to be any confusion, Mr. Queen. My ability to keep you from harm will outweigh your comfort. Do we have an agreement?
Bombace: You don’t talk to a principal that way that he does, where you call all the shots. I like to point this out, where ultimately the client really does make the final decisions, even with the president of the United States.
Oliver: Got your eyes open?
John: That’s what I’m here for, sir. That and answering patronizing questions.
Bombace: They don’t want you following them around with an earpiece on and making it very high profile that they have security. You might sit in the corner of the room and just observe things.
John: I have to get you out of here.
Oliver: No, them. Them.
Bombace: You’re always gonna watch the people in close proximity to your principal. You’re gonna see if anyone has an unnatural focus or level of attention on your principal. You’re gonna watch for things, anything that might be suspicious or seem like somebody could be unstable or dangerous. And anytime they interact with someone, you’re gonna just keep an eye on that. You’re not gonna hover over there around their back and ready to attack anyone at any time. It’s unrealistic. This is not a high realism rating, no, for multiple reasons. I would give it a two.
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