I’m already behind on my westerns . . . fail . . . but I’ll have to continue ignoring them for just a little bit longer because Road House popped up on TV the other day, and I’d somehow gone my whole life without seeing this cinematic masterpiece.
Well, I feel more fulfilled as a person now.
Dalton (Patrick Swayze) is a Cooler — basically King of the Bouncers, or Super Bouncer! — who’s hired to clean up this skeevy dude’s skeevy bar of skeeviness. But it’s not long before Dalton realizes there’s more than one bar at stake. It will be up to him to save the whole town from Evil Rich Bastard, Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara).
1. So, this is not a good movie, and the majority of the Total Fail comes from the cast. Let’s talk Swayze.
Patrick Swayze has two basic expressions in this movie: Little Smirk and Angst Face. As far as smirks go . . . well, it’s not horrible, but you know, he’ll be standing there with his crossed arms and tiny smirk, and I know I’m supposed to buy him as this total badass who can kill someone without even breaking a sweat, but . . . I just don’t. He really doesn’t have any kind of actual presence. I don’t find him or his mullet particularly intimidating.
And as far as his Angst Face goes . . . yes, well, I don’t buy that, either. You want real pain, you go to Swayze’s costar from Ghost, Tony Goldwyn.
Now THAT man can do Tortured Woobie Face. (Huh. I really should watch Ghost again. I haven’t mocked the shit out of the pottery scene in years.)
2. There’s also The Girl, or Doc, played by Kelly Lynch.
At first, Doc doesn’t seem too terrible. Oh, sure, she’s probably a little too close to Swayze as she staples his wounds shut (for the rare few injuries that are too severe for Dalton to manfully and stoically stitch up himself), but while she’s clearly being set up as the love interest . . . I don’t know, Doc seems competent enough, at least by movie standards.
(Although she apparently finds out what university he went to because it’s in his medical file, and . . . er . . . I’m pretty sure we don’t keep information like that. Unless Dalton was treated at the university, maybe. “By the way, this file says you’re allergic to penicillin, and that your favorite color is blue. Is that correct?”)
But then Doc shows up at the bar — sans her big doctor glasses and her flat doctor hair — wearing what’s clearly a picnic blanket for a dress, and . . . I don’t know; she just suddenly loses all semblance of anything even resembling a character. She is just Chick Enraptured by Dalton’s Manly Magnetism. If she wasn’t in the movie . . . you know, I’m not even sure the story would really change in any significant way.
Admittedly, some of my problem is a writing issue . . . but not all of it. Kelly Lynch has so little presence herself — she can’t seem to rise to what little material there is. And she and Swayze have very little chemistry with one another. Come on, you two! Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey had chemistry, and they supposedly hated each other!
3. And then there’s our bad guy . . .
. . . yeah, he’s just not good, either. The role doesn’t really demand that much. All he really has to do is look smarmy and twist his mustache fiendishly while overseeing the destruction of a car dealership with a monster truck, and yet . . . I was just completely bored by him. I couldn’t find him even the least bit threatening.
4. Thankfully, Sam Elliott is there to make things bearable.
Elliott plays Wade Garrett, Dalton’s friend, mentor, and fellow badass Super Bouncer!, who’s getting on up in years. (And yet has more sex appeal than Patrick Swayze in this movie. I don’t know. Yosemite Sam isn’t really a look that I go for, most days, but Elliott has a certain swagger that I like. Besides, Dalton does tai chi, and I can’t seem to take any white guy who does tai chi very seriously.)
I don’t suppose the role is a huge stretch for Elliott, but he’s funny and likable, and I enjoyed it when he called Dalton on his bullshit.
5. One last casting note: Eternal Schmuck Kevin Tighe is in this film as Tilghman, the guy who hires Dalton to clean up his bar.
Now, Tighe may be the sweetest guy in the planet, but I primarily know him from movies and TV shows where he’s playing a conniving sonofabitch, and when he popped up in the beginning of Road House, I was like, okay, so you’re going to end up being the bad guy. Because, honestly, this guy is seriously working smarm like no one’s business in the first few minutes, and yet . . . he’s really just the dude the owns the bar. That’s about it. It’s a little weird.
6. Tilghman’s bar is called the Double Deuce. That is . . . that’s just the worst bar name I’ve ever heard. What do you people think? Any bar names you particularly like? Best one I ever heard: Red’s Recovery Room. (Local bar that’s, sadly, closed down now.)
7. One of the things I find funny about this movie — and boy, do I find a lot of things funny — is that everyone knows who Dalton and Garrett are by reputation alone. And not just the people you might expect, like the bar owners, but waitresses and flunkies and random patrons who are just there to drink some damn beer. Like, I know I’m not huge in the bar scene or anything, but say I’m at the counter, drinking my vodka and redbull, and some guy comes in, and everyone’s like, “Ohmygod, that’s DALTON,” and I’m like, “Who?”
I mean, really, are there infomercials with this guy’s face on them?
8. My hand to God, Dalton has a Ph.D in Philosophy. Also, he knows that being called a cocksucker isn’t personal — a cocksucker, after all, is merely two nouns smushed together in order to elicit an emotional response. In related news, if I ever decide to go back to school and become a teacher, this is clearly how I’m going to teach English to all my students.
9. There’s this one character in this movie, Denise?
I have no idea why she’s in here, other than to occasionally strip off her clothes and dance. Okay, I know exactly why she’s here. But I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about her — there’s one shot that’s really giving off this abused housewife thing, and I think, okay, I’m supposed to feel sorry for her? But other times she just seems like an annoying cokehead. I don’t know. Anyone have any deep thoughts about Denise?
10. I do actually enjoy a lot of the music in this film. The Jeff Healey Band provides half the soundtrack, and while they’re primarily doing cover songs . . . I like the covers. Jeff Healey had a nice voice. Which is good because one of the songs is “Roadhouse Blues,” and that’s one of my very favorite songs by The Doors. Listening to terrible covers of songs you really like is the worst — Britney Spears singing, “I Love Rock N Roll,” STILL haunts me.
11. I’m not convinced a remake is really necessary, but I could see this being a totally solid action flick, if it just had a little better writing and a much better cast. Mek and I were spitballing ideas for who we’d want to play Dalton, though, and all the people I thought of seemed too obvious: Daniel Craig, Tom Hardy, Karl Urban, maybe Jason Momoa. (I loved Momoa in Game of Thrones, and I wish he’d pick better looking action movies to star in. If Momoa were cast, though, we’d definitely have to cut that repeated line, “I thought you’d be bigger.”)
Regardless, I’m pretty sure I would like any of these people more than Patrick Swayze. Not that it matters. I already know who they’d recast in a remake of Road House. I mean, I’d lay money down.
I like Jason Statham, kind of, but . . . . meh. Not interested. At all. About the only people I can think of that would interest me less are Sam Worthington and Mark Wahlberg.
No. Just no.
12. Finally, before spoilers, did you know there was both a direct-to-DVD sequel and an off-Broadway musical production of this movie? The sequel is about Dalton’s grown-up son and features no one from the original story. The musical is apparently called Road House: The Stage Version of the Cinema Classic That Starred Patrick Swayze, Except This One Stars Taimak From the 80’s Cult Classic, “The Last Dragon,” Wearing a Blond Mullet Wig.
To hell with the lame sequel. If I die before at least seeing a taped version of this musical genius, I’m coming back as an unhappy ghost and haunting everyone until the original cast gets back together to do a live show, just for me.
Okay, so Dalton and Doc have sex. Afterwards, Dalton talks about how he’ll have to ramble on to another town, eventually, because such is the nature of his bullshit weary existence. Doc tells him that he could stay here, which I’d like to say is her calling him on his crap, but really comes off more like, “You’re leaving? But you could stay here with MEEEEEEE!” Mind you, they’ve only had two dates prior to this, but you know, it’s true love or whatnot.
Unfortunately, the bad guy’s annoying jumping monkey of a henchman comes to spoil things, and he and Dalton duke it out. Dalton is kind of getting his ass kicked until the henchman pulls a gun; then, Dalton does what he has to do, namely, ripping the guy’s throat out with his bare hand.
And, see, he had to do this once before, a long time ago — it appears to be Dalton’s standard, Anti-Gun Counterattack — and he’s all mixed up about it. But, you know. A guy’s trying to kill you, and you kill him first? Well, I figure that’s mostly okay. (The way it’s shot, I’m not actually sure Dalton had to rip out the dude’s throat, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be ambiguous.)
Unfortunately, Doc sees this last bit of the fight and is absolutely horrified by all this no-good, terrible violence! She leaves in a righteous huff and refuses to go with him later, even when her life is in danger because Evil Rich Bastard has promised to kill either her or Wade Garrett. I’m sure I can speak for almost everyone when I say that, given the choice, we would have chosen to spare Wade, no question. Unfortunately, as Wade is the most likable character in the whole movie, well, of course he dies.
And look — the thing about Doc? If I saw my boyfriend rip out the throat of another man, yeah, I’d probably freak out about it. Maybe I’d need a day, I don’t know. But it’s not like she doesn’t know what’s going on in this town. Her uncle (or godfather or somebody — I can’t remember the exact relation) just had his entire business burned down. Dalton’s landlord was nearly killed when his home burned down. And Jimmy — or the jumping monkey of a henchman — clearly had a gun and was planning on using it against Dalton. Even if she didn’t see that part, a six second conversation could have easily cleared up Dalton’s motivations for killing the dude. Doc’s reaction is predictably and annoyingly histrionic because, you know, good girls despise violence! (Also, Dalton needs more angst. Like he doesn’t have enough angst just by being named Dalton.)
(Okay, fine, Dalton is actually his last name — but you don’t really know that unless you have eagle eyes or Wikipedia. If YOU were a Super Bouncer!, would you go by the name Dalton? I think not.)
After Wade Garrett dies, Dalton plans an assault on Evil Rich Bastard’s house, making his way into the Taxidermy Lair of Doom. He kills all the henchmen — except one who, I shit you not, he traps under a POLAR BEAR.
This very well could be the most ridiculous thing that happens in this movie. Not only does Red Suspenders try to stop the polar bear by SHOOTING it, he doesn’t move for the entire twenty seconds it takes to fall. A step in either direction would save him from massive indignity, and yet clearly the proper response is to try and shoot the dead animal before falling backwards on his own ass while waiting for it to hit.
Anyway, so Dalton and Evil Rich Bastard fight for a while, and eventually Dalton gets the upper hand. He moves to do his signature “I Can Pluck Out Your Throat With One Hand” maneuver . . .
. . . but because he’s learned something about inner peace or shit, he decides not to go through with it. (For fuck’s sake.)
Of course, Doc is suddenly there to see this Learning Moment, and she happily embraces him, no longer concerned about the dead guy Dalton sent down the river. (Neither, apparently, is anyone else. No one comes to investigate the dude without a throat. The cops in this town are only briefly mentioned as being in Evil Rich Bastard’s pocket, which you wouldn’t think would preclude them for arresting Dalton, but whatevs.)
Naturally, the second Dalton turns his back, Evil Rich Bastard pulls a gun. Before he can shoot, though, he’s shot three or four times himself by various members of the town who are just suddenly and inexplicably in Evil Rich Bastard’s Taxidermy Lair of Doom.
I don’t understand this. Dalton didn’t tell anyone shit about where he was going, not his boss, not the other townspeople, certainly not the girl . . . and yet, they’re all here anyway with their convenient shotguns. (Well, not Doc, obviously. God forbid she do something useful in this story.) Don’t get me wrong: I like the idea of the townspeople killing Evil Rich Bastard instead of Dalton — it’s all very Murder on the Orient Express — but where the fuck did they COME FROM?
The police do finally show up, but all the guys are like, hey, I didn’t see anything; did you see anything; nope, don’t look at me; I was under a polar bear. And that’s about the end of the movie.
Cheese, although not my favorite flavor — I’d watch this again with friends for a drinking game or something, but I don’t see it ever becoming a favorite guilty pleasure movie, like, I don’t know, Mindhunters or something.
Killing is wrong, if you’re a girl, or if you’re trying to Learn Something. Otherwise, killing is fine — just don’t get caught.
Also, be nice . . . until it’s time to not be nice.