Wednesday 20 December 2017

Movie Review: Road House (1989)

An action film set in the rough and tumble world of bouncers, Road House is a good bad film.

Bar owner Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe) hires professional "cooler" Dalton (Patrick Swayze) to help clean up the rough environment at the Double Deuce club in a small rural Missouri town. Dalton, an expert martial arts fighter, is considered the best in the business, and quickly sets about getting rid of corruption and rowdy behaviour. Gradually the Double Deuce is elevated to a respectable establishment. Dalton also starts a relationship with local doctor Elizabeth Clay (Kelly Lynch) and a friendship with band leader and ace guitarist Cody (Jeff Healey).

Dalton: Pain don't hurt.

Dalton's progress is not appreciated by corrupt rich businessman Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), who runs the town with an iron fist and demands protection money from all businesses. Wesley's goons start to pressure Dalton to leave town, leading to violent confrontations. Dalton calls on his old buddy Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott) for back-up.

Garrett, referring to Elizabeth: That gal's got entirely too many brains to have an ass like that.

Directed by Rowdy Herrington and produced by action film master Joel Silver, Road House is one bad movie that is undeniably entertaining. Filled with cringe-inducing dialogue, superfluous nudity, ridiculous and frequent fight scenes and a total detachment from reality, Road House is nevertheless enjoyable for its sheer bravado as it luxuriates in its awfulness.

Dalton, instructing the other Double Deuce bouncers: I want you to be nice...until it's not be nice.

The plot borrows heavily from that most basic western cliche, the mysterious stranger with one name, a dark past and few words who cleans up a town run by baddies and frees the long-suffering local residents. The Road House script adds bone crunching and bloody violence, nudity and foul language to meet the expectations of the low-brow market in 1989. And just because this is a Joel Silver film, somehow an impromptu and utterly needless striptease makes its way onto the screen.

Making it all worthwhile is Patrick Swayze, displaying star magnetism through sheer looks, flowy hair, a singular expression and coiled energy in his frequently shirtless body. Dalton drivers a Mercedes instead of riding a horse, and is supposed to have a philosophy degree from NYU. Through screen presence alone, Swayze almost makes that achievement believable.

Dalton: Nobody ever wins a fight.

Musician Jeff Healey somehow ends up in this cluttered mess, and adds to a soundtrack rocking out to energetic country blues. Best of all is Sam Elliott as Dalton's mentor, wandering in for the sole purpose of kicking ass with the wisdom of an older man who built his life's purpose on ass kicking.

Tilghman: It's a good night. Nobody died.
Dalton: It'll get worse before it gets better.

Road House is an unpretentious exercise in lowest common denominator action filmmaking, where star charisma, familiar plot elements, and the hot button of simplistic justice are served on a chipped plate with a greasy spoon.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.


  1. Good to look back on and remember them all when they were young and beautiful. Swayze turns in a good smouldering hero performance and the confrontations with the villains are bone-crunchingly satisfying. Most useless baddie? Tigger..."a polar bear fell on me." Just like the review says, a very entertaining bad-good movie.

    1. Some of the one-liners in this movie are just epic in their good-badness.


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