Road House (1989)
If you don't know who this guy is, either you don't deserve to be called an '80s man, or you probably weren't one.
Some know him as one of the Wolverines from Red Dawn.
Some know him as a dance instructor in Dirty Dancing.
Some know him as a ghost in, err...Ghost.
Despite how you remember this guy, he was undoubtedly one of the biggest names to come out of the penultimate decade of the 20th century.
Come on, when Mystery Science Theater 3000 writes a Christmas carol around somebody, you're gonna remember him.
Speaking of MST3K, today we're doing the movie that head writer Mike Nelson once called the cheesiest film he'd ever seen.
And it also has that guy in it! What a coincidence!
The dearly-departed Patrick Swayze, if you hadn't already guessed his name, stars as Dalton, a mild-mannered professional bouncer whose calm demeanor and NYU degree in philosophy have made him the best man you could hire for the job of tossing horny boozehounds out of otherwise well-respected bars. He has just been hired away by Mr. Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe), a bar owner with dreams and aspirations who runs an infamous little dive in the fictitious (or is it?) town of Jasper, Mo., named the Double Deuce, a dirty, grubby little music house where the drinkers are rowdy, the bands play behind a chicken-wire fence, and the waitresses are considered prime real estate. Tilghman has big plans for the Deuce to improve its image in Jasper, and hopefully Dalton will keep out the riffraff who threaten his investment.
Dalton quickly settles in, buying a new car and renting out an upstairs apartment in the barnhouse of one Emmett No-Last-Name-Given (Sunshine Parker), who as it turns out lives right across the lake of one Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), the local tycoon/sadistic bastard who has his fingers in the back pockets of every business in town, not to mention the sheriff and police department. At the Double Deuce, he instills his iron-fisted regime upon the tavern, firing the drug-pushing, till-skimming, backroom-snogging bouncers who don't cut the mustard with him. Of course, some of them were in Wesley's employ, and one of them, Pat, the one who was caught skimming the till, turns out to be the man's nephew, and when some of his thugs intimidate Tilghman into giving the boy his job back, a fight breaks out that ends with Dalton escorting them out of the building by their shirt collars.
Dalton goes to the hospital to tend to a knife wound the fat guy gave him during the fight, where he meets Dr. Elizabeth Clay (Kelly Lynch), a nurse. You know, I just bet they'll get together later in the film.
When Wesley's thugs drop by the Double Deuce to maybe shake things up a bit, Dalton and his bouncer army remain resilient while forcefully ejecting them from the premises. Then Wesley invites Dalton to his home to try and hire him away from the Deuce and he refuses, perhaps becuase he nonchalantly mentions that he allegedly ripped out a guy's throat in Memphis with his bare hands.
On top of that, it turns out Wesley has a thing for Dr. Clay. Way to spit in his eye, Dalton.
That evening at the Double Deuce, which has re-opened after apparently having undergone the quickest building refurbishing in human history, things get busy.
Wesley starts choking the Deuce's booze supply, and when his goons attempt to stop an impending liquor delivery, a fight breaks out. Luckily, Dalton's good friend and fellow bouncer Wade (Sam Elliott) comes to Dalton's aid and scares them away.
Meanwhile, Doc's uncle Red Webster (Red West) has an auto parts store over by the bar ... or had, until Wesley's thugs blow it up in a massive fireball for non-payment of protection money. Wesley celebrates with a drink at the Deuce while the sexy blonde who walked in with him performs a striptease, and then a fight breaks out.
Another of Wesley's stooges drives a monster truck through Jasper citizen/superfluous character Pete Stroudenmire's (Jon Paul Jones) Ford dealership.
With Dalton all riled up, Doc comes by one evening to persuade him to leave town, when on her last word, which she just happens to be shouting, and as if she had commanded it herself, Emmett's house explodes in a the same albeit perfectly timed giant fireball that took Red's shop.
Some of the best movie villains ever conceived, including many of the most outrageous James Bond baddies, have always had a motive. They didn't just choose to be bad; they were victims of circumstances which made them cold-hearted individuals, and this makes them more human, more believable. Brad Wesley has no motive. He's just a grinning, psychotic bastard who sponges off everybody in town and hires murderous thugs to wreak havoc and destroy private property for fun, smiling all the while. I bet there was a scene on the cutting room floor where he skins a kitten alive while drinking the blood of an orphan child.
Anyway, after Emmett's house explodes, (Emmett's okay, BTW) Wesley's toughest stooge Jimmy (Marshall R. Teague) drives by the scene on his dirt bike gloating at his dirty deed done dirt cheap, and Dalton chases him down to the riverside where another fight breaks out. In a move which sort of confirms that rumor about him ripping a guy's throat out in Memphis, Dalton does the same thing to Jimmy and dumps his body in the river. Unfortunately, his new girlfriend arrives in time to see him do that. Naturally, this causes her to cool on their relationship immediately.
The next morning Wesley calls Dalton and casually informs him that today he's going to kill either Wade or Doc, deciding on the flip of a coin. Wade wanders in bruised and battered, so he heads to the hospital to get Doc out of there. She flatly refuses his offer, citing that Dalton is just as dangerous as Wesley and asks him to leave.
Oh, yeah, I get it. Dalton's not the one who's a money-grubbing psychopath with zero value for human life and HE'S crazy. Dalton's not the one who hires ruthless, violent thugs to extort local businesses and destroy private property for kicks and HE'S crazy. Dalton's not the one who recklessly serpentines his car into both lanes of the highway, potentially running other cars off the road, and HE'S crazy. Lady, Dalton may have the capacity to relieve people of their ability to swallow food and he might be a little P.O.-ed right now, but compared to Wesley...he's Mother flippin' Teresa.
Besides, Jimmy had a gun on him. It was self-defense.
Anyways, Dalton returns to the Deuce to see Wade laid out on the counter with a knife sticking out of him with a note reading IT WAS TAILS.
And Dalton's thinking only one thing: HEADS WILL ROLL. (C wut I did thar?)
Dalton stages a one-man assault at Wesley's place, dispatching his hired men one at a time (though the fat guy gets off easy — he follows Dalton into the trophy room and has a stuffed polar bear fall on top of him) until the final boss Wesley enters, and then a fight breaks out. They fight for a while and Wesley has just pulled a gun out when Dalton has him floored and is about to deliver a second trachaectomy when he has a moment of realization and eases off. Doc, who shows up for some reason, comes in just in time to see Dalton stand down, and as Wesley gets back up intent on shooting Dalton in cold blood suddenly finds a shotgun-shaped hole has appeared in his belly — Red, Emmett and the other townspeople have turned up with their rifles, and Tilghman appears to deliver the one-liner — "This is OUR town, and don't you forget it" — before making it quite difficult for him to forget anything ever again by shooting him once more in his stomach, quite fatally. The sheriff arrives and everybody hides their guns and denies everything, while the fat guy mentions that a polar bear fell on him.
Doc and Dalton have a celebratory skinny dipping session while the band from the Double Deuce plays over the end credits.
A majority of action movies are not so much praised for their genius plots and complex characters as they are for their big name actors kicking and punching and shooting and killing the crap out of the bad guys. Steven Seagal made a career for himself by kicking gangsters and drug dealers in the crotch for 90 minutes. Arnold Schwarzenegger took his Terminator persona to great heights fighting terrorists, aliens, and even the Devil himself. Bruce Lee...well, he was Bruce Lee. His name alone should tell you enough.
"Road House" is no exception. Patrick Swayze was already a Hollywood name with an action film or two under his belt, so all director Roddy Herrington had to do was cast him as a macho badass, give him a crime boss and some lackeys to fight, throw in a love interest, set it all up in a trashy bar location (the music in the background wasn't bad, by the way), and there you go, instant action classic. Story? Ehh, don't strain yourself. Character depth? Well, okay, but not so much for the villain. Philosophical insight? Come on, a woman gets felt up in the first 10 minutes.
If you like movies with barfights but don't really care much for Westerns...or story or characters or anything else for that matter, "Road House" is the movie for you. It is by no means an intelligent movie, but then some movies don't have to be intelligent to keep you entertained, particularly action movies.
Adam Lafferty also likes to talk about movies, among other things, on his other blog, popculturevomitbag.blogspot.com.