Review: Road House (1989)

>> Saturday, September 26, 2009

USA/C-114m./Dir: Rowdy Herrington/Wr: David Lee Henry & Hilary Henkin/Cast: Patrick Swayze (Dalton), Kelly Lynch (Doc), Sam Elliott (Wade Garrett), Ben Gazzara (Brad Wesley), Jeff Healey (Cody), Kevin Tighe (Tilghman)

It’s near impossible to call Road House a good movie and manage to keep a straight face. Road House isn’t a good movie. It’s trash… mullet-tastic, bone crackin’, throat-rippin', beer swillin’, late-80’s trash. The story and dialogue are laughable, the acting is over-the-top, and the direction is mediocre. In short, it’s a mess, but it’s also a hell of a good time.

Patrick Swayze stars as Dalton, a legendary “cooler” (a.k.a. head bouncer) for hire, who takes a job at The Double Duece, a roughneck Missouri saloon with a violent clientele. His job is to get rid of the bad elements in the bar and organize the bouncers into crackerjack security team, which he manages through the application of his three rules to maintain order:

1. Never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected.
2. Take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary.
3. Be nice… until it’s time to not be nice.

While trying to whip the bar into shape, Dalton begins to woo a local doctor (Kelly Lynch) and receives a visit from an old friend, another legendary “cooler,” Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott). He also runs afoul of a corrupt millionaire, Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), who has been bullying the locals into paying protection money. When Dalton and the few brave locals refuse to play ball with Wesley, businesses begin blowing up and people start getting hurt. It is at that point that Dalton employs the latter half of his third rule. The time has come not to be nice.

Road House isn’t easy to defend, but it is easy to enjoy. Just turn off your brain and wallow in the movie’s ridiculousness and excess. How can you not love a film that expects you to believe in a world where bouncers can become legendary, or that the most celebrated badass of them all is a fluffy-haired, Tai-Chi practicing, NYU Philosophy graduate, who can rip out throats like Sonny Chiba in Street Fighter (1974)? What’s more, how can you turn away from the dueling match of acting styles between Sam Elliott’s underplaying and Ben Gazarra’s unhinged scenery chewing? When you consider that the picture piles on heaping helpings of gratuitous violence, nudity, unintentionally funny dialogue, and unfortunate fashion and grooming choices, Road House is simply irrisistable.

Like a martini made with malt liquor, this cocktail isn’t smooth or subtle. Still, it’s a lot more enjoyable than it should be.

A side note--The band that performs during the opening credit sequence is fronted by Tito Larriva, who would later head up the house band in another great movie bar, The Titty Twister, in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).

Drinks Consumed--Whiskey, beer, vodka (Bloody Mary and on the rocks), and gallons of unnamed cocktails

Intoxicating Effects--Brawling, physical violence, belching, swearing, passing out, public disturbance, and bar tossed

Potent Quotables-- TILGHMAN: Ernie, what’s the story?
ERNIE (the bartender): Whiskey’s running low.
TILGHMAN: I finally get this place just the way I want it, and now we’re running out of booze. I’ve called every supplier I know. Why won’t they deliver?
DALTON: Wesley. Ernie, give me the phone. I’ll take care of it.

Video Availability--DVD and Blu-ray (MGM)

Similarly Sauced Cinema--The film inspired a direct-to-video sequel, Road House 2: Last Call (2006), featuring none of the original cast.


Anonymous October 2, 2009 at 10:19 PM  

Dude, I love this movie.

It's one of the movies I actually bought on VHS.

Oh. VHS.

I guess I dated myself.


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