Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame calls this the cheesiest movie ever made. I’ve seen much worse, but by no means does that excuse it from the title. Despite Dirty Dancing, it’s not too hard to see Patrick Swayze as a tough guy. He was swinging both fists in The Outsiders and hosed down a ton of commies in Red Dawn. In Road House he combines that history with his hunky Dirty Dancing reputation to make a ridiculous movie that is everything you could want from a movie made specifically for guys. Sex and violence is on the menu for Road House and you get it in spades. You also get a lot of high reaching foolishness that wants you to believe that Dalton is some kind of wandering do-gooder as the movie hints at themes typical of westerns, but a little more geared toward Kurosawa samurai flicks.
Dalton is a warrior poet, you see. He reads high literature and spews a line taken straight out of The Seven Samurai (“No one wins a fight”). He also punches a lot of people in the face and walks around naked when he’s not practicing some improvised tai chi on the edge of his simple-man home. The whole thing is completely ridiculous but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it.
Swayze plays Dalton, a “cooler” in a high profile New York nightclub where he leads a crack team of bouncers in keeping the peace as coked out assholes accost good looking chicks. When a bar owner from the small town of Jasper, MO shows up and offers him a job cleaning up his shithole bar, he takes it and immediately leaves town for his new digs in a sweet Mercedes. Upon arrival, he finds that the Double Deuce, his new job, is the kind of place that sells more crystal meth than beer. It’s a wild west saloon at best. After a night of taking stock, he sets off on cleaning it up and cans a bunch of the employees for dealing or stealing. What he doesn’t know is that the town is more or less run by a Boss Hog type character named Brad Wesley and, naturally, Dalton runs afoul of him. Dalton tries to stay clear of Wesley while cleaning up the Double Deuce, but it’s clear from the outset that they’re going to butt heads. Dalton also woos Wesley’s ex, a shockingly tanned and bleached blonde doctor played by Kelly Lynch. Romance ensues. Dalton’s influence gives the beseiged townfolk hope and Wesley’s grip on the population slips, so he resorts to terror tactics (bombing the auto parts store and driving big foot through a car dealership) to keep a lid on the growing problem. When Dalton’s mentor, Wade Garrett is murdered, his hand is forced and he makes a run for Wesley’s compound for revenge where just about everybody gets killed.
It’s supposed to follow the same rules as The Magnificent Seven or The Seven Samurai but really comes off more like Walking Tall. There’s a new sherriff in town and he’s facing down these organized crime types with his own brand of justice. The only thing missing is a two by four.
Cheesy? Oh god yes. Dalton is faced with some hilarious bad guy lines. While struggling with Wesley’s number 2 heavy, the heavy puts him in a headlock and proclaims, “I used to fuck guys like you in prison!” to which Dalton replies, “Fuck you!” It’s a god damn shame. For a guy who is supposed to be so enlightened and faced with such great lines of villainy, the most he can ever seem to squeeze out as a come back is fuck you.
There’s also some difficulty believing that Brad Wesley could possibly become so rich off Jasper with his sprawling estate, helicopter and evening bachannals because the only businesses that he’s supposedly skimming are the Double Deuce, a couple of diners, a car dealership and an autoparts store. Jasper looks more like a leftover set from The A-Team than anything else. You never see a paved road anywhere. Kelly Lynch as the sexy leading lady is a little laughable as well. Her frightening orange tan and bleached New Jersey mall hair are completely ridiculous. Maybe Dalton fell for her because she’s the nicest girl in town. The only others you ever see are bar sluts. Like my opinions of Lee Ving in little roles, we also get a couple of those, too. One the Ozzy Osbourne of professional wrestling, Terry Funk, the other another Las Angeles punk figure, John Doe from the band X. John Doe winds up in movies here and there and like Lee Ving, I’m always pleased to see him show up. Here he plays a scumbag bartender turned heavy for Brad Wesley. He gets beat up a lot, as does Terry Funk. Blind white-blues man Jeff Healey also gets a considerable role as the leader of the house band at The Double Deuce.
The movie has a built in reputation by this point so there’s not much you can really say about it that hasn’t been said about it already. Mike Nelson’s Rifftrax project targeted it as their first podcast and Kevin Smith and his producer Scott Mosier are featured on the DVD reissue bagging on it in a commentary track. It’s certainly an entertaining movie and has all the elements you might want in the middle of the night after a heavy dose of cheap beer. There’s monster trucks and fist fights, T&A and a stuffed polar bear falling on a fat guy.
One final note of trivia: I just read this not too long ago that the guy in the bar who offers his wife’s boobs for fondling for twenty bucks was played by the voice actor of Cobra Commander on G.I. Joe and Starscream on The Transformers. I don’t hear it, but that’s still pretty funny.