I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Road House

You know, people recommend movies to me all the time. They got a pretty good idea what I’m into, and they got some movie they like, they figure I would like it too. And I’ve discovered some damn good ones this way. For example I still wouldn’t’ve picked up MR. MAJESTYK if it wasn’t for Jeff McCloud, I think was the first guy who told me about it.

Well I can’t remember who told me this one, ROADHOUSE. A film by Rowdy Herrington. Whoever recommend this must’ve been jerkin my chain, but that’s all right. I enjoyed this one, even though it is about Patrick Swayze is the world’s second greatest bouncer who is sent in to clean up a rough redneck bar, ends up having to kill Ben Gazarra. You know how it is.

I knew this was a good one pretty quick, because a couple minutes into the movie a woman stabs a guy in the hand with a pen, and as payback she gets kicked in the balls. There are alot of feet and knees crushing balls in this movie, but that’s normal. I’ve seen that before. A woman getting kicked in the balls though is not something I believe I’ve seen before. Until now.

I also noticed right off the bat, this movie is pretty spectacular in the bad dialogue department. I mean there are a bunch of doozies in this and they are so good that your brain can’t even contain all of them. A character will say something great and you make a mental note of it so you can try it at home, but then the next one is so good you forget the last one. So the only one I still remember is at the end of the movie, Swayze has broken into Ben Gazarra’s place and he’s in a room full of stuffed bears and deer heads and shit. And Gazarra comes in and says, “I see you found my trophy room. The only thing missing is your ass.”

Road HouseI never knew this until I saw the movie, but apparently there are world famous bouncers. The very top of the line, legendary dudes, the Oliviers and the Michealangelos of throwing out drunks. A bar owner actually goes out in search of Swayze and pays him big bucks to fly somewhere out in the boonies and clean up the world’s roughest bar. I mean, this is a bar where all that happens is people fight. During the few moments when they calm down, they yell and throw bottles at the blind guitar player of the house band. So in a way this is kind of like those urban teacher movies where some white person has to go in and teach a bunch of rowdy gangsters how to study and respect their elders and crap. Only instead of bettering children’s lives and making the world a better place, all he does is make the bar go out of business by alienating all the clientele.

Actually Swayze is not even a bouncer, he is a “cooler,” which it turns out is the fucking manager. He watches all the other guys and then at the end he steps in to casually knock a knife out of a guy’s hand and break a table with his head or something. And probaly afterwards he gives somebody petty cash to go buy a new table (“remember to get a receipt” “I know, I know, I’ve done this a million times, Swayze”) but they don’t show that part. Anyway, Swayze is second best to his mentor Sam Elliot, who has long hair and goes shirtless, like an old man version of Swayze. That guy has a cool voice, I should look into having him play me in a movie. But not with that fucking Swayze hair. Anyway, the second best bouncer in the world, Patrick Swayze, goes around and everybody is amazed to actually be meeting him. They’ve heard all about him and his amazing throwing a drunk out of a bar skills.

And the movie goes into detail to show you what life is supposedly like for a bouncer. Like he has a Mercedes but he buys an old beater to drive to work, because he knows every night he’s gonna get his windows broken and his tires slashed. Not just by the patrons but by the bouncers and bartenders he fires for skimming the till or having “the wrong temperament.” He outrages everybody at the bar when he gives a big speech about how they have to “be nice.” Then he goes back to the humble house he’s subletting from an old hillbilly, sits on the porch shirtless and reads a book. It is mentioned later that he is a philosophy major. Also he does tai chi.

But don’t worry, there’s an action movie plot in here somewhere. See, it turns out one of the guys he fired is the son or nephew or something of Ben Gazarra, the rich thug who lives across the lake from him, drives around on 4-wheelers and laughs at him when he does his tai chi. And of course Gazarra is rich from muscling in on all the friendly down home mom and pop business owners who Swayze has struck up a friendship with. But everybody is too afraid to do anything.

Also, Swayze gets stabbed alot and he was careful to ask that the bar pay all his medical bills. So he falls for the doctor who stitches him up. They go on dates but she is intimidated by his rough lifestyle and tries to straighten him out. They have a Billy Jack and his wife style disagreement over the use of violence in solving problems.

I can’t remember, but I think Sam Elliot got killed. An homage to Ben Kenobi dying in “the new hope of star wars” I think.

I don’t know jack shit about Pat Swayze, but as you know I am one of North America’s top 2 or 3 Seagalogists. And in my expert opinion, this movie could’ve been a Steven Seagal movie. It has almost all of the major Seagal motifs: well liked expert badass trying to live humble life, fights in bars (lots of them), people flying through windows, awkward discussions of philosophy, backyard training sequences. Hell, the scene at the end where he breaks into Ben Gazarra’s mansion to get his revenge is almost interchangeable with the same scene in HARD TO KILL. Seagal falls in love with the nurse who treats him in HARD TO KILL too, so there’s another similarity. And I mean, tell me you can’t picture Seagal doing that scene where he’s in the backyward doing tai chi. Only thing is, unless this was one of his first 2 or 3 movies he definitely would’ve kept his shirt on. There are alot of shirtless scenes in ROADHOUSE actually, which might be why they had to ditch Seagal and settle for Swayze. If Seagal was in the movie the character would come off a little different, but the script would be almost exactly the same. They’d just have to add a line about his black ops background or how kicking a guy out of a bar is just like something he encountered when he was a Navy SEAL. Something like that.

In fact, further research reveals that the writer of this picture, David Lee Henry (sounds like a serial killer, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt) also wrote Seagal’s OUT FOR JUSTICE. Ironically, OUT FOR JUSTICE is the best written Seagal picture, the one that seems like it could’ve even been respectable if it starred a more serious actor that could pull off a New York accent.

One thing that would be better if it was Seagal, the hair wouldn’t be so distracting. Say what you will about Seagal’s ponytail, at least it doesn’t date the movie. I watch some of these Van Damme and Swayze movies, I don’t even look at their faces, I’m too hypnotized by the fucking mullets. It’s amazing that we as a society once considered that shit acceptable. Seagal knew what he was doing, man. He was looking forward.

Look out for cameos. I noticed the wrestler Terry Funk, Tito Larriva from all the Robert Rodriguez movies, and the great Keith David (he gets his name in the credits but he gets about one line). Also I noticed on IMDB apparently Pat Tallman was in there, she’s the one from all the George Romero movies, who was so cool as Barbara in the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake.

Anyway if you enjoy ridiculous ’80s action movies, this one is pretty high on the list, mostly due to the oddity of Pat Swayze in a badass role. And I am proud to announce that MGM currently plans a direct to video sequel to ROADHOUSE. You heard it here first, folks. I don’t have anymore information unfortunately. I’m betting Swayze won’t do it so I’m hoping they will get a Jim Belushi or a Coolio type to continue his character’s adventures. Maybe Sam Elliot gives him guru advice in flashbacks or, better yet, as a ghost. Or we could even get a prequel where whoever the ’90s equivalent of a young Pat Swayze is would play him and he would meet Sam Elliot’s character for the first time (played by either Treat Williams or Ice-T). This way they could make it a period piece and keep the bad hair. On the other hand, MGM is the studio that gave us WILD THINGS 2, so this could be the same deal – just a half assed remake with different actors and character names. But I don’t know that for sure, it’s just speculation. We’re still allowed to dream.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 14th, 2004 at 10:54 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

20 Responses to “Road House”

  1. Just saw this for the first time.

    Solid movie, very entertaining. Sure, you have to buy into this crazy world where a bouncer/manager makes five hundred bucks a night and that the crazy old asshole who wants him dead doesn’t really use guns but once you get past that it’s a pretty good movie.

    It’s got everything you want, I would think. Fights, tits, friendships, and revenge. There are more cuts than I’d prefer but you still know what’s going on in the action scenes.

    Roadhouse doesn’t try to do too much, but what it does it does very well.

  2. Great review Vern.. Been reading and enjoying your stuff for a few years not.. Just watched this due to the recent dvd release.. Loved it.. Figured you might have done a write up about it. Never saw it before. Back when I was a kid, self respecting dudes had no time for Swayze. He still had that Dirty Dancing taint on him.. So this gem flew under the radar.

  3. I meant ” a few years now”, not, “not”.. F’n typoes..

  4. […] the other hand Grandpa has Terry Funk (wrestler profiled in BEYOND THE MAT, also appears in ROAD HOUSE) and some other henchmen who he sends to kidnap the kid, and that’s not cool. Also he’s […]

  5. I was reading this Time-Life true crime book recently and came across the real life story that apparently inspired (very, very loosely) Roadhouse. I think it was in Missouri in the early 80s: this farmer had terrorized an entire town since the early 70s, harrassing the local women, beating up guys weaker then him (he only got in fights he knew he could win), shoving guns in people’s faces all the time, actually shooting at people if they came near his property, ect; and I think he was involved in criminal activities too.

    Anyway, around 1984 everybody had finally had enough with this guy, and when he came into town one day, what amounted to a lynch mob surrounded him in a bar and glared at him until he stormed out telling them to go to hell. He got into his car, and as he started it up, gunshots rang out from all directions and both the car and the local asshole were riddled with bullets.

    The remarkable part of the story, though, is that when it went to trial, they could not find a single witness to the shooting, despite the guy having been shot by five or six different guns on a Saturday morning in the center of town, and nobody was ever convicted of the crime.

    You can see the vague ways Roadhouse lifted things from this story (small southern town, local bad guy, confrontation in a bar, townsfolk shoot bad guy at end), but obviously, as much as I love Roadhouse, I don’t think it exactly is the best possible dramatization of the incident, y’know? : ) I’d like to see a more serious and accurate (to say the least) film about the case–I think it’s got a lotta potential.

  6. Just checked up on it, and A). it was in Missouri in ’84, and the guy who was shot was named Ken McElroy, and he was even worse then I remembered–he’d been accussed of rape, arson, attempted murder, livestock rustling, all kinds of stuff, he was really terrible.

    AND there have been at least two films about the case: a 1991 made-for-tv movie called IN BROAD DAYLIGHT and a 2004 independent film WITHOUT MERCY.

  7. I remember watching it. i got so pissed of at the bad guy I had to turn the fuckin´movie off. I was alos dissapointed at his death.DEATH BY SHOTGUN? JFC! Michael Parks gets to swim in a tub of acid in Death wish 5!!! And i didn´t feel his bad guy deserved it as much as this rich asshole. oh well….

  8. Vern, it’s not very apparent because you don’t talk about it all the time, but as an avid reader of your work, I noticed that you seem to have a problem with men who have long hair. Even Sam Elliot’s not-that-long-long hair gets a nasty comment from you here.
    I’m willing to accept the fact that not every man can wear it and it sometimes even looks totally awful, but why the hate, man? It’s just hair.

  9. I could be wrong, but i do believe the stuntwoman who gets kicked in the balls in the bar fight is that awesome chick who was featured in the documentary with Zoe Bell… She was wonderwoman’s stunt double… Fuck i can’t remember her name but i know she’s in this movie somewhere.

  10. Watching this right now on Netflix. It is awesomely bad. I Love it.

  11. So, yeah, there’s, uh, no good way to say this, but they’re, um, remaking ROAD HOUSE. With Rob Cohen directing.

    http://www.avclub.com/article/pain-dont-hurt-but-a-road-house-remake-might-105964

    Yeah, I know. It’s okay if you need to take a minute to absorb this news.

    I need help reacting to this. On the one hand, is nothing sacred? On the other hand, if there’s one mainstream filmmaker who can make a movie as equal parts hilariously sincere and sincerely hilarious as the original, it’s probably Rob Cohen. On the third hand, fuck this entire corrupt, soulless world and everything in it. So I guess you could say I’m torn.

    On a more pragmatic/fatalistic note, Chris Pratt already remade ROAD HOUSE once (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifqjxq68_wI) so they might as well just let him do it again. But since he’s also ridiculously ripped now maybe they should save him for the inevitable STONE COLD remake.

    WHY ARE THEY FORCING ME TO USE THE PHRASE “INEVITABLE STONE COLD REMAKE” IN A SENTENCE HAVE THEY NO SHAME?!!!!!!

  12. Don’t worry Mr.M, STONE COLD is safe if only because not enough people care about it to get remade.

    (I mean I like the movie, but outside of us…who else cares about a Brian Bosworth actioneer?)

  13. Dude, they remade THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, which is so unknown they didn’t even use the whole title. Nothing is safe.

    THEY ARE MEN WITHOUT HONOR OR PITY AND THEY WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING YOU LOVE

  14. Mr. M – Well to be fair, they remade HOSR for a different reason than most remakes. Most remakes anymore are done because hey people recognize that original movie, lets make money off that brandname value! The HOSR remake happened I suppose because those people thought the basic premise was still a good idea to play with as a slasher plot, even if nobody rememebred HOSR. (Thus they could get away with cutting down the title.)

    STONE COLD has no brand recognition and really, what about it would drive a producer to go “umm, I want to use that plot idea again!”

    Of course motorcycle/helicopter? Umm…

  15. Are you saying that “It’s a movie that exists” isn’t enough reason for these people?

  16. Well, shit, thought I’d swing by here and remind y’all how goddamned great ROADHOUSE is and wonder if anyone else thinks back to this movie whenever you see a lone shirtless figure practicing his martial arts in the moonlight in other movies like NINJA 2 and whatnot, and now I see this thread and. . . this is the first I heard of this awful news. Or maybe I caught a whiff of it a few weeks back when it was new news but I repressed it and went to a filthy saloon and drank away the painful new realization into a drunken subconscious nonmemory scored by a blind guitarrist and beaten from my temporal lobe by a broken bottle brandishing hick.

    It’s a sick joke of a world we live in. Hollywood remakers don’t care if you’re a woman; they’re gonna keep kicking you in the balls.

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  18. Saw this for the first time in forever last night at a double feature with Dirty Dancing. I may have to turn in my membership here because Dirty Dancing was easily the better time. (I think I’ve already said this before somewhere here but DD has a shockingly good script, great character development, lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry with its leads, incredible dance sequences that have the fluidity and long-takes I haven’t seen outside of most martial arts-movies, and yes – the Hungry Eyes training montage is one of the best training montages ever).

    Road House is still good but it’s alot sloppier than I remember – It’s way too long and poorly paced. It’s structured like an “escalation” movie a la Straw Dogs/Lakeview Terrace but the Commando-esque climax is too quick and rushed. I obviously wouldn’t call this a “slow-burn” movie since it has about one bar fight every five minutes, but the structure is too lopsided. Not to mention the episodic nature is ridiculous – did Dalton just go back to sleep in his room after tearing that guy’s throat out, because both him and Lynch just go to their respective jobs the next day as if nothing happened.

    Characters like Kevin Tighe and the waitress friend who seem so crucial at the beginning pretty much disappear halfway through. As Vern says, Keith David gets a pretty high billing despite having one line and no closeups – i’m pretty sure most of his role ended up on the cutting room floor. (Btw, about half of the trailer isn’t in the movie, which is always a bad sign) And the “polar bear fell on me” guy is suddenly written and played like a mentally challenged person in the last 5 minutes when he acts like a fully capable and complete asshole in every other scene of the movie.

    The best scene is the one in the middle when Swayze and his bouncers fend off the thugs led by the dude with the knife in his boot. They work as a team, they have each other’s backs, they use the lessons Swayze taught them; he instills these schlubby guys with confidence to take on superior opponents. We finally see why this character has this legendary reputation – and this is what the movie should have been about… so of course all these characters disappear pretty much right after this. Oh yeah, I like Kelly Lynch but she’s incredibly wooden here and she and Swayze have zero chemistry. It was hot and dirty when you’re a kid and the sight of a woman’s ass was earth-shattering, and you kept hitting that pause button to make sure you really saw what you thought you saw on Ms. Lynch, but as an adult, it doesn’t fly. And don’t re-use the exact same song from the sex scene in Dirty Dancing for the sex scene here either, guys. C’mon.

    It’s still reasonably fun, the action is hard-hitting and well-shot (the fight by the lake would make all of us so happy if it was in a movie today), but it’s so flawed I can see why this is regarded as a so-bad-its-good classic vs. a real Predator/Die Hard classic. I’m going to go ahead and say it – a remake of this one wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. (It will inevitably star Garrett Hedlund and be PG-13, so it probably will be the worst thing in the world)

  19. Just caught this on Netflix streaming and looked up Vern’s review (as one does).

    No mention of Jeff Healy? Let’s get a prequel detailing how a blind Canuck ended up rockin it nightly in small town Missouri. “Road House: Road Trip,” Dalton and Cody bustin heads, breakin hearts, and rockin it from Toronto to Jasper.

    Also I’ll point out that Gazarra is riding a three wheeler, not a four wheeler, because that’s how badass he is (and we didn’t know any better in the eighties).

    I also found myself wishing for an old school newspaper owner/publisher/reporter/audience surrogate for the town, one guy working hard to make sense of all of the crazy goings-on for the normal townsfolk (wherever they are in this town, by the way). Red’s shop blowing up? Just a Fourth of July spectacular! Monster truck crushes this year’s Chevy station wagons? Fun for all ages, bring the kids!

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