‘Road House’ is an ’80s action time capsule


Road House (1989)

Directed by Rowdy Herrington

“Road House” is a big movie—big fights, big romance, big hair. Dalton Tanner (Patrick Swayze) is the toughest cooler in the land, but when he gets a new gig at the Double Deuce in Jasper, Missouri, he finds that local entrepreneur Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara) has a tight grip on the community. He provides the liquor for the Double Deuce, takes freely from the local auto mechanic, and has the cops wrapped around his finger. So when Dalton fires his nephew from the Deuce and starts dating his ex-wife Elizabeth (Kelly Lynch), Wesley sets his sights on him. But Dalton has a lot of fight in him. And he’ll get some help from his buddy Wade (Sam Elliott) and the rest of the bouncers at the Deuce. But yet, Dalton has an uphill fight.


Patrick Swayze was the Paul Walker of his generation. Both men were, let’s face it, not very good actors. But they were undeniably likable. Women thought they were attractive, sure. But each defined what it meant to be a man’s man. Guys envied them. They weren’t smug, they never let their egos show. They were cool, old-fashioned guys. And “Road House” is the quintessential Swayze movie. He’s kickboxing one minute, making love to the sounds of Otis Redding the next. It’s thick with cheese, but only the best kind. Nine years after “Road House,” Sam Elliott would narrate “The Big Lebowski.” But as Wade Garrett, Elliott was more Dude than Narrator. His long hair and laid-back spirit defined his role, but fight scenes were way better when he was involved. And there were enough fight scenes to go around. Big, crazy, chaotic brawls with dozens of people involved sometimes. They were highly choreographed, with help from kickboxing trainers on set. When the Double Deuce gets rowdy, there’s no telling what or who will go flying.


The Deuce also had the best live music around, thanks to the Jeff Healey Band. Maybe you’ve heard their cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (if you haven’t, do it now), but the band from Toronto knows how to rock. And their blind frontman, the late Jeff Healey himself, wasn’t half bad as an actor, too. On the flip side, “Road House” has a terrible score, a relic of that experimental synch phase every ‘80s movie had.

“Road House” is a cult classic, so it gets judged on a slightly different scale. It’s good for what it was. But no matter what you compare it to, its kickass appeal is timeless.


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