Movie Project #11: Road House [1989]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Road House [1989]

Road House [1989]
Director: Rowdy Herrington
Writers: Hilary Henkin, David Lee Henry
Country: USA
Genre: Action/Thriller
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliott, Ben Gazzara
Running Time: 114 minutes

Pain don’t hurt.

Even though this year’s project is stacked with acclaimed films, I don’t know if there was anything I was looking forward to more than the incomparable Road House. Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while now should know how much I love bad (or so bad they’re good) movies. There’s something to be said about shutting off your brain and just going with the flow, embracing cheesy acting and terrible dialogue as the delectable pieces of junk food they are. I’m happy to report that Road House is every bit as awesome (and awful) as I had heard.

Patrick Swayze, still riding the wave of success from Dirty Dancing, stars as a professional cooler (aka bouncer) named Dalton. He has built up a reputation as being the best in the business, and he is hired by businessman Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe) to clean up his bar called the Double Deuce. It’s an absolute pigsty of a nightclub, and it is home to many of the bottomfeeders of society. Its patrons are loud and short-tempered, and every other minute a huge bar fight breaks out. The poor house band even has to play behind a cage to avoid being hit with thrown beer bottles. The current wave of bouncers (including pro wrestler Terry Funk!) will throw out those who get particularly unruly, but they’re generally content with the unstable atmosphere.

Road House [1989]

Enter: Dalton. He immediately clears out the staff members that refuse to play by his rules (one of which is simply to be nice) and begins overhauling the business. Problems arise when Dalton fires a bartender who has ties to the local business mogul, Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara). Wesley has his finger in seemingly every business in town, and he wants to keep things the way they are. He does his best to make Dalton’s life miserable, though Swayze plays him like he doesn’t have a care in the world.

Along the way, Dalton gets a love interest, Dr. Elizabeth Clay (Kelly Lynch), and some backup support from his longtime buddy and veteran cooler, Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott). When Garrett shows up, the film gets more and more violent, lending itself to some wildly entertaining barfights. Naturally, there’s a huge showdown at the end that becomes the centerpiece of the entire movie. It is here where Wesley’s top henchman, Jimmy (Marshall Teague), makes one of the most awkward threats imaginable (“I used to fuck guys like you in prison!”) before succumbing to Dalton’s wicked throat punch (it has to be seen to be believed). At this point, the film has its foot on the gas and culminates with an epic finale at Wesley’s personal mansion. To give you an idea of just how utterly ridiculous this becomes, take note that the last words mentioned in the film are “A polar bear fell on me.”

Road House [1989]

But this imbecility is what makes Road House so much fun. Swayze kicks a bunch of ass, Gazzara hams it up as the main villain, buildings get destroyed, characters find excuses to fight over anything, and Sam Elliott gets to show off his pubic hair. Wait… scratch that last part, that’s something I wish I did not see. Ditto for Patrick Swayze’s belly button (some things just cannot be unseen).

Is Road House great cinema? Not in the slightest. But it’s a damn fun film, and sometimes that’s all that matters.


16 thoughts on “Movie Project #11: Road House [1989]

  1. Gary Smith says:

    Great review, but this is one film that I’ve seen multiple times and just never cared for. I like Sam Elliott in it, and I like Terry Funk. Don’t care for the rest. Then again, I have a hard time thinking of any Patrick Swayze movie that I do like. I think the only one that comes to mind is The Outsiders… and that one certainly isn’t because of Swayze.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Thanks man. Can’t say I am a huge fan of Swayze in general, but I was loving his stoic persona in this. It meshed well with the often hilarious dialogue. It’s not a great movie by any means, but I got a real kick out of it.

  2. Chris says:

    I agree, a fun movie, I was entertained the whole way. Some of the dialogue is quite ridiculous, but I didn’t mind. I guess we agree that it’s “so-bad-its-good”. Sort of a comedy almost! But it doesn’t top “The Room” for you, right? 🙂

  3. Alex Withrow says:

    “I used to fuck guys like you in prison.”

    You say awkward, I say loving term of endearment.

    Ha, but really, what a goddamn line. Perfectly epitomizes what this film is.

    (Also, this might just be my computer acting up, but I didn’t see the “Leave a Reply” section on your Cheap Thrills review. I was hoping to comment on that!)

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Haha, man when I heard that line, I just died. And then Swayze rips his throat out… incredible. You can’t make this stuff up.

      Ah, good catch on the Cheap Thrills review! I’m still working out the kinks on this new site, so the blocked comments must have slipped through the cracks. The comments should be working now. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. jackdeth72 says:

    Hi, Eric:

    Not really a “Guy Flick”. Not really a believable, full blown “Beat ’em Up!” Flick. Patrick Swayze is okay. Sam Elliot is in full quiet, badass Sensei mode. For something similar, only better. Check out the New Jersey centric, Glickenhaus flick, ‘Shakedown” with Peter Weller. And the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ take on Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” during its opening credits.

    I liked Swayze better as the naive, burning with desire rookie in “Uncommon Valor”.

  5. Dan says:

    Totally agree. There are few Swayze films that would get praise from high brow critics but who cares when they are as fun as Road House!

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