Road House (1989)

Road House (1989)

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He was an expert tickler.
He was an expert tickler.

Twitter Plot Summary: The best bouncer in the land is hired to clean up a particularly dirty bar and protect the town from a corrupt businessman.

Five Point Summary:

1. That’s a nasty looking bar.
2. Jeff Healey! Brap brap.
3. Throat rip!
4. Sam Elliott, hobbling around the place.
5. Shotgun party.

They certainly don’t make them like this any more. Road House represents the classic “man with no name” western movie and moves it to the present day and putting said man – in this case called Dalton – at the front of a rough drinking establishment, known as the Double Deuce, as its no-nonsense bouncer. All is not well in the local community, however. There’s a big business tycoon, Brad Wesley (Gazzara) who is threatening and intimidating everybody within his reach – the whole town, then. For some reason it’s up to Dalton to unite the fearful townsfolk against Wesley and bring peace to their small town.

To say it’s a silly film would be underselling it. There’s that much machismo and testosterone built up that it threatens to break through the fourth wall at any second, none more so than the infamous throat rip scene. Nothing says “manly” like a sweaty, topless Patrick Swayze going all Bruce Lee on a named goon. Well, perhaps manly isn’t the right word for it… Furthermore the whole western idea feels at odds with the present day setting – if the local police are in Gazzara’s pocket then surely you just call in a police force from out of state? Vigilante justice has a time and a place, and it sure isn’t the present day.

Swazye exudes effortless cool as Dalton, and Gazzara makes for a slimy villain, never one to get his hands dirty unless he has to. The only other character close to replicating this level of awesomeness is Sam Elliott, but then he’s always excellent so that should come as no surprise. Music is provided by guitarist Jeff Healey, although in this case he’s not Jeff Healey, he’s Cody, resident singer at the Double Deuce. His music runs throughout the film and, as expected, is a blues rock delight.

She was the foremost expert in armpit hair.
She was the foremost expert in armpit hair.

Dalton is a conflicted man – his modus operandi when it comes to the world of bouncing is to avoid conflict where possible and only revert to violence when absolutely necessary. Of course, that means in his past he was a violent man, and it’s something that he’s fought to keep in check ever since. This plays havoc with his budding relationship with Doc (Lynch), which is also perhaps one of the most cringeworthy relationships ever committed to screen. I don’t think Lynch and Swayze have much in the way of screen chemistry, and other than an obligatory “naked buttocks” scene for both of them, there’s little in terms of passion or believability. In fact it’s almost painful to watch at times, it would have been a much better appreciated film if this angle had been removed.

As is often the case, it’s a very silly film that revels in its silliness by playing it almost completely straight faced. There’s a knowing wink in its proverbial eye, but let’s face it – there’s no chance a film like this would ever get past muster these days. Lucky for us that in the 1980s they really didn’t care. For better or for worse, Road House is a true relic of its time, and is an absolute hoot as a result. Road House!

Score: 3.5/5

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