Years after he instructed uptight parents on the correct placing of Baby (hint: it’s not in the corner) and before he assumed “ditto” was the correct response when telling Demi Moore that you love her (right after he LITERALLY ghosted her), the late, great Patrick Swayze made a curious little oddity of an action movie. This movie… let’s call it Road House… was a crude, bizarre, knuckle cracking, breast baring, two fisted, tooth loosener that spiritually feels like it’s sprung from the sweaty loins of the redneck action movies from the 70’s. Oh, you know the ones, where a smug hero (usually played by Clint Eastwood or Burt Reynolds) punch and fuck their way through adventures set among toothless good ol’ boys and non-serial killing truck drivers.
Taken in this spirit, the cinema gods gifted us a rare treasure: a Patrick Swayze action movie that isn’t Point Break, which was weird because the former dancer was usually more of a lover than a fighter in the roles that made him a household name, but nevertheless, here he was, kicking ass, taking names and doing it all while wearing a pair of jeans I couldn’t even fit into when I was 12.
Swayze encompasses form of impossibly zen jawbreaker Dalton, the best “cooler” in the business (that’s a bouncer to you and me) whose calm and measured outlook on life belays an awesome talent in ass whupping. “Be nice, until it’s time not to be nice.” is a typical Dalton musing and one day, while he’s nonchalantly stitching up a stab wound in his shoulder, he’s approached by Frank Tilghman who wishes to employ his services in Missouri to clean up his new bar, The Double Deuce. It turns out that The Double Deuce is the perfect name as the bar turns out to be twice as shit as anyone could have imagined and it resembles the Titty Twister from From Dusk Till Dawn if it was run by The Muppets if they were on PCP. Instantly making a dent in the vast amount of rough necks who both work AND drink in the joint, Dalton makes many friends and a whole heap of enemies too, chief among them is local business magnate and all round psycho Brad Wesley who has a strangle hold on the town and an army of thugs at his command.
However, in this part of the US, the answer to all of life’s questions is usually a right cross to the face or a swift punt to the goolies with a cowboy boot and so Dalton starts trying to put things right while simultaneously wooing Elizabeth, the town’s statuesque doctor and avoiding the predatory glares of pneumatic walking cleavage, Denise.
There’s something hugely endearing about such a blatant heap of throwback trash churned out in the years AFTER films like Die Hard and Predator changed the face of the genre but the truth of the matter is that all three (alongside Lethal Weapon and Commando) were brought in under the wing of super producer Joel Silver and when you realise that the whole thing should be taken with a tounge in cheek attitude – meaning the tounge of the boot that just kicked you IN the cheek – and that the whole thing is a goofy neo-western that’s not to be taken too seriously.
I mean, I HOPE that’s the case… how else could you possibly explain away the truly astounding outbursts of dialogue that frequently pepper the script like belly-laugh inducing land mines. Swayze abmirably utters clangers such as “Pain don’t hurt.” without batting an eyelid while Sam Elliot drawls that accent around such statements as “That gal has entirely too many brains to have an ass like that.” as if it was a snippet of great American literature. However, none of which holds a candle to the nine words barked at Dalton during a third act fight with a deranged human pitbull who stunningly spews out the jarring legend “I used to fuck guys like you in prison!” thereby securing the movie with the so-bad-it’s-good quote of the millennium.
Swayze, when he isn’t striding around the place with his shirt off with his jeans practically painted on, is obviously having a ton of fun playing this mass of strutting contradictions and gives the material far more respect that it probably deserves, but when you’re playing a brawler with a degree in psychology, who is so virile he can fuck you when he slow dances but can still unleash a picture perfect roundhouse kick AND can RIP a man’s throat out with his bare hand, well… wouldn’t YOU enjoy yourself?
The rest of the cast (which randomly also contains vision impaired blues legend Jeff Healy and hardcore wrestling maniac Terry Funk all in the same film) follows suit with only Elliot I suspect being the one actually in on the joke that nothing in the film willfully makes any sense.
Where the fuck are the police? Why are people driving acrual monster trucks like it’s a normal thing people do? Why does Denise’s “sexy” dance make her flail around like 100,000 volts is going through her? Who the fuck thought the climax where wronged townsfolk take down Wesley like Julius Caesar but with shotguns would be anything less than hilarious?
Considering this movie was directed by someone with the deliriously apt moniker of Rowdy Herrington, maybe these questions aren’t so taxing after all but for all it’s multitudes of sins, Road House is amazingly entertaining trash cinema and how there isn’t some world-renowned drinking game attached is a question will be tormenting me until my deathbed.
So whether you say it with pride, say it with shame, or say it while doing a Peter Griffin voice – the name of this late 80’s gem is…. Road House. Give it a visit.