By: Anthony Francis
Widely considered to be one of the most ridiculous movies ever made. It has a silly plot and uses up just about every cliche’ in the “tough guy” handbook. It is also widely praised by Action film fans and, over the last 20 plus years, has grown into an all-time cult classic.
Make no mistake, the film IS silly and to the extreme. Patrick Swayze is Dalton, a philosophy spouting, kickboxing, Zen, “cooler” (bouncer), who comes to a small town owned and ruled over by a psychotic millionaireplayed by a great (but slumming) Ben Gazzara.
Swayze’s Dalton proceeds to clean up the town with the help of his old shit-kickin’ buddy, played by the legend and “man’s man” Sam Elliott.
Along the way, Sawyze and Elliott kick much ass and even kill. Dalton is already a legend among badasses, having once ripped a man’s throat out who was trying to kill him. Think he will be forced do it again?
David Lee Henry’s screenplay (writing under the pseudonym R. Lance Hill) is full of macho-posturing and un-P.C. lines that would never make it to final cut these days. My favorite being when a bad guy tells Swayze, “I used to fuck guys like you in prison!”
The cinema world that would grant big budgets and a wide release to films such as “Road House” is long gone. The men drink, talk tough, and fight. The women (apart from Kelly Lynch as Swayze’s love interest doctor), are sex crazed dolls who will drop their pants at the sight of a “manly” man or for the chance to get into the club without hassle.
Sawyze was not a tough guy actor but he made some action films. This film is the best example of his tough side and a perfect blend of what made him such a good actor and why he became such a big star. Swayze gets to be tough and cool and romantic. He is extremely good in this film and plays it straight which helps the audience swallow the sillier moments a bit more easily.
Swayze is quite believable in the well-done fight sequences. His dancer’s physique gives him a graceful force to his brawls and when he uses his legs as well, the fight scenes have a bruised balletic quality to their choreography.
The film’s director, Rowdy Harrington, is not exactly John Milius or Walter Hill (filmmakers with true grit who would have been excellent choices to direct this film.). Harrington’s outlook on tough guy ballsy filmmaking is nota part of his blood like those two directors…but he makes it work. Even with an extreme phoniness to the proceedings, “Road House” works on just about every level.
Modern audiences have lost their grit and most American Action filmmakers working today just do not have it. “Road House” is a man sweat, beer and blood soaked fairytale but manages to endure as a gritty, exciting, and ballsy piece of action filmmaking.