Best Bad Action Movies #2: Road House

Year 1989
Stars Patrick Swayze, Sam Elliot

Plot Frank Tilghman, the owner of the Double Deuce, wants to clean up his road house bar and turn it into a respectable joint. What is his plan? Naturally, he recruits the #1 cooler (head bouncer) in all of the land, Dalton (Swayze). When Dalton gets to town, he soon realizes he is up against more than the common riff-raff, as the town is run by the wicked landowner/racketeer, Brad Wesley – who will stop at no lengths to be inexplicably evil.

Swayze shirtless? Check. Medical Records? Check. Pain don’t hurt? Check. I wonder if Wesley’s racketeering operation includes the hospital?

Highlights Well, that plot right up there sums up one of Road House’s great strengths. Our hero is a morally-just, zen-practicing, martial-arts-expert, #1-ranked bouncer who cleans up a whole town. The very fact that it is widely known who the best bouncers are in America (or the world?) is awesome enough (I wonder if the rankings change weekly, monthly, or annually), but Road House takes this bouncer fairy tale even further by Dalton later alluding to he has seen this (Wesley’s evilness) before. I suppose I am plain ignorant, as I have always assumed that bouncers live a simpler life. This plot is so awesome that in a best man speech I gave, I told the story of how the couple met, and used this plot with their names inserted. And I won’t throw just anything in a best man speech. … The one-liners in this flick are second to none. They range from the winking “clever” variety (the running joke on Dalton’s size, “I thought you’d be bigger.”), to the bad-ass tough (“Pain don’t hurt.”), to the absurdly “smooth” (“You’re gonna be my regular Saturday night thing,” dude says to chick he is boning in a bar’s liquor closet.), to the zingers (“You’re too stupid to have a good time!”). Then there is the ultimate line, but we will get to that later. … As the plot may suggest, there are bar brawls, and they are every bit as wonderfully preposterous as they tend to be in movies. … Boobies! Road House fills the BAM-quota. … When Wade Garret (Sam Elliot) comes into town, he and Dalton team up to form the most bad ass, clever, and insightful bouncing duo in the history of man. Dalton is the alpha-bouncer, but he is also the student to the wise, old Wade. They kick ass and also make you think about deeper issues. (As The Tick says, “Or, maybe not.”) … When Dalton first arrives at the Double Deuce, one of the bouncers asks Dalton’s friend, “What’s his story.” Friend replies, “Story is, you fuck with him and he’ll seal your fate,” which happens to be very true in this flick. Within all of five minutes, that same bouncer tells Dalton, “You’re a dead man.” Good stuff. I will leave it to your imagination to guess how that one finishes out. … The scene where Dalton lays down the law at the Double Deuce is rather sweet and has many choice lines. (“You are the bouncers. I am the cooler.”) … A movie full of b-actors playing bouncers means a bunch of awful fake-tough acting and awkward takes. … Boobies! One scene in particular seemed to be added for purely gratuitous nudity – a night pool party by Brad Wesley, featuring a handful of topless babes. And there is something for the ladies, as we get to take in the pinnacle of fannies: Swayze ass! … When Dalton goes to the hospital to get a cut stapled up, he brings his medical records with him because it “saves time.” – for a knife wound? Maybe it was to impress his future love interest, a female doctor named “Doc.” … Wesley’s racketeering is “all legal-like” because he calls it a charity. Hm, I think I found my new calling – especially considering that he seemingly runs a racketeering operation that takes money from: a bar, a Ford dealership, and a convenience/general store, and he is filthy rich. Helicopter-rich! Imagine what you could do in a normal-sized town, kids! Spaceship-rich, I tells ya!

Not a Drawback: Swayze practicing tai-chi shirtless!!!

Drawbacks Most of the action is fighting, more specifically, bar fighting. … Clocking in at 114 minutes, it is a touch long for a BAM.

Best Take In most any BAM that relies on hand-to-hand combat, there needs to be a showdown between each side’s stud – Road House readily complies. Wesley’s numero uno henchman, Jimmy, fights for the first time halfway through the flick (Maybe he was on a semi-vacation? He did scowl a bunch before then.) to serve as a worthy rival to Dalton (before that, Dalton easily disposed of the lackies, time and again). The later, big fight features the typical (for a BAM) 100 or so knocks that would normally end someone, but are largely brushed off. What sets this battle apart are the few lines from Jimmy. The zenith of dumb lines in a movies full of wonderfully dumb lines is achieved in this very scene. When Jimmy grabs Dalton by the hair, he utters, “I used to fuck guys like you in prison!” The amount of times this line has been referenced and cheers’d to among my friends is uncountable. What it could possibly mean is beyond me (or anyone I know), but I suppose it is meant to be tough(?). Then, when he is all but defeated, he pulls out a gun to shoot Dalton and says, “I’m gonna kill you the old-fashioned way.” Gun = Old-Fashion. Check. Yet, Dalton is too good to be shot, so he kicks the gun, grasps Jimmy, and rips his throat out. Then Doc comes to see if the dude who just got his throat ripped out and thrown into a river is dead. SPOILER ALERT: He is.

A shirtless Swayze about to perform throat surgery. Unfortunately, for Jimmy, it all goes wrong and he is never able to make love with Dalton, like he did to gentlemen-callers in the penitentiary.

Justification The plot of Road House is so BAM-good that it almost seems like the writers were poking fun at the action genre, but the studio played it serious. I feel like the studio came to the writers and told them they needed a completely original action movie. Then the writers got high and jokingly turned in this script. Thank you, stoned writers, wherever you may be. Taking this script and casting it perfectly created the second best BAM out there. Leaning so heavily on bar fighting (as glorious as it is) was a drawback, but it is not like it was ever going to dethrone the king of the BAM kingdom anyway.

Next Up? Jesus Christ is torn by his predestined fate, but it hardly matters, as Judas Iscariot puts the nail in the coffin cross – THROUGH ROCK ‘N ROLL!!!

About Judas Pato

Just another hard working member of the press, covering the Chicago Bulls and nonsense - often both, simultaneously.
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2 Responses to Best Bad Action Movies #2: Road House

  1. djhatesyou says:

    One other knock on Road House in the BAM genre would be the ridiculously low body count. Dalton only kills I think 3 people. Although it is worth mentioning that after he rips the dude’s throat out, he doesn’t worry about being pinned for the homicide AT ALL. He struts back to work and takes his merry time, and even leaves Garrett alone while he prances off after the oh-so-memorable “Doc” for probably the most obvious revenge death ever.

    • Judas Pato says:

      Shit, great call on the body count, or lack there of. As for the homicide, I think we can all agree that that jerk was begging to get his throat ripped out. The court would have seen it that way and thrown out the case. Plus, the town does not seemingly have a police force until the last scene.

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