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Film Review: Road House
In 1989, Rowdy Herrington released Road House, which starred Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliott, Ben Gazzara, Kevin Tighe, Red West, Sunshine Parker, Marshall Teague, John Doe, Kathleen Wilhoite, Terry Funk, Julie Michaels, Jeff Healey, Anthony De Longis, Travis McKenna, and Keith David. The film grossed $30.1 million at the box office and it was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay.
Dalton, a professional bouncer with a mysterious past, is hired to work for the Double Deuce in Jasper, Missouri. While he works to clean up the roadside bar, he gets on the wrong side of the town’s criminal kingpin Brad Wesley. Meanwhile, he sparks a romance with a nurse who stapled his stiches following a bar fight.
While it can’t be considered a good film, Road House is one of those films that’s decent enough to be enjoyable. The story is essentially a new look at the age old trope of a guy with a past and a reputation who strolls into town and winds up cleaning it up for the better. However, what’s different is that Dalton isn’t a samurai or a loner cowboy. Instead, he’s just a bouncer who gets hired to clean the bar up and essentially winds up cleaning up the town. It’s a story that’s as ludicrous as it is fun to watch with the amount of modern day vigilante justice. However, the final act is where the film just dives off the deep end into a world that isn’t even synonymous with reality. While a guy brought in to clean up a bar that eventually finds romance and a connection with the townspeople is at least somewhat realistic, the ending where Dalton goes after Brad and eventually gets saved by the business owners shooting the latter and then making it so the police can’t do anything because said shooters didn’t see anything feels like a resolution written just so the film can have a resolution. The film also tries very hard to make it seem like Dalton is on the same level as Brad when the former is asked “who’s going to save the town from you?” Yet, that makes no sense because the film in no way made any indication that Dalton was a threat to them and the line just comes off as trying too hard.
When it comes to characterization, Dalton is a stereotypical boring, invincible hero, even if he does get knifed a couple times. He’s got a reputation as a guy who can rip someone’s throat out, which he’s able to back up, and outright states that “pain don’t hurt” when asked if the stab wound in his side is bothering him. He’s also a really nice guy, seen when he pays the owner of a restaurant to allow a homeless guy to sleep there for the night. What’s more is that it’s part of his code to be nice to the patrons of the bar until it’s time to not be nice.
At the same time, Brad is an interesting villain whose dastardly deeds are so over the top that the film may as well have a neon sign pointing to him stating that he’s the bad guy of the film. Not only does he taunt and antagonize the business owners, going so far as to crushing a car lot with a monster truck, but he also abuses his mistress. Granted, the film does try to make Brad more than one-sided, showing that he loves his sister enough by promising to look after her son, with that manifesting in his forcing the owner of the Double Deuce to make said son the bartender. However, it’s a terrible attempt at humanizing him as it comes up once and is never brought up or alluded to again. Further, when he talks about it, he makes it seem like he’s obligated to instead of doing it because he actually loves his sister enough to do so.
However, that may be a failure of the acting as there’s plenty of bad acting to be found in this film. It seems that while Swayze may be having fun with the role, he doesn’t think too highly of it and doesn’t emote very well, even during the scenes where Dalton is mourning the death of his friend and mentor. Lynch is also about as compelling as a block of wood and Gazzara as Brad can’t get through a scene without chewing on some of the scenery.
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