Road House

Dir: Rowdy Herrington, 1989


The 1980’s was the decade of the mindless action film.

Dominated by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, these films were purely there to entertain without giving you anything to think about.

It isn’t, really, surprising that every Hollywood actor who was hot at the time, would be put forward as the, potentially, new action star.

With Dirty Dancing winning Patrick Swayze considerable acclaim, he was an obvious choice as the new kick-ass hero.

Regrettably, this, maybe, wasn’t the right vehicle for him.

Dalton (Swayze) is a “cooler”; or bouncer. The best in the business, his name travels far and wide across the bars of America, striking fear and mysticism into bar owners and other “coolers”.

Hired by nightclub owner Tilghman (Kevin Tighe) to clean up his club, The Double Deuce, Dalton incurs the wrath and violence of crime lord, Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara).

In truth, the film is crap. Corny, poorly acted and ridiculous. But, it’s brilliant, campy entertainment.

Unintentionally funny and silly, the characterisation is ludicrous. The audience is expected to accept that our heroic bouncer has a degree in…philosophy! Yeah. Philosophy.

This revelation brings astonishment and incredulity in the viewer as he sutures his own knife wound, especially when you add in Dalton’s philosophical words of wisdom like “pain doesn’t hurt”.

As well as being the eye candy of every woman in the film, Dalton brings the locals attention to the art of tai-chi.

There’s nothing wrong with practicing the ancient martial art but, in the context of the film, the character looks a bit of a prat. It’s extremely difficult to root for Dalton because he’s so smug and arrogant.

Swayze attempts to give his character a mysterious edge but isn’t able to pull it off. The entire role is just plain silly and backfires stupendously.

Director Herrington doesn’t know how to stage an action scene, happily allowing his cast to limply fling their arms and legs about, deftly flooring each opponent.

Sam Elliott plays Wade Garrett, a motorcycle riding old bouncer who is well past his prime and best friend of Dalton. With his long, grey and unkempt hair Elliott looks every bit a vagrant drunk rather than master of combat.

For it’s release in the UK, the British censors passed the film without any cuts for cinema showings, but removed 10 seconds of groin kicks and Dalton ripping a bad guys throat out for the video. The DVD was passed uncut.
Writers R. Lance Hill (using the pseudonym David Lee Henry) and Hilary Henkin haven’t quite got the grasp of macho, bad guy dialogue. A rather, unintentionally, hilarious line occurs during a one on one melee between Dalton and Wesley’s henchman. Kicks are flung and punches thrown with sweat seeping out of every pore before the latter, trying to be tough, matter of factly informs Dalton that he “fucked guys like him in prison”. I’m sure you’ll agree that isn’t something that would be said in a real fight.

But, Road House is incredibly ironic. The badness of it all is what makes it so brilliant. It’s a riot from start to finish.

People often refer to this film as a guilty pleasure and that’s unfair because there’s nothing to feel guilty about. Herrington’s movie is just a pleasure.

Ridiculous and over the top, Road House is great Saturday night viewing.


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