Road House August 20, 2015
What’s fun about Road House is the fact that it’s terrible and doesn’t quite know it. It thinks its one-liners are clever when they are, in actuality, juvenile. And it believes that Patrick Swayze is the best answer to the strong, silent type of hero Clint Eastwood played during his untamed youth. Subtlety, then, is a weakness for Road House. It figures that peppering its frequent brawls with roundhouse kicks and video game acoustics is thoroughly rad instead of slightly laughable. But the 1980s were a time of flamboyance, not understatement; Road House is a sign of the times, shoddy but endearingly so.
Swayze stars as James Dalton, a professional nightclub bouncer called to the small town of Jasper, Mississippi to help clean up the Double Deuce, a potentially popular bar so sidelined by violence that it has become renowned for its rowdiness. The owner, Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe), plans to invest a great amount of money towards a sizable update — but the only way he can do such a thing is if all the thugs are kept under control and the place becomes a fun hangout again. Apparently, Dalton has a reputation that precedes him, making him the perfect man for the job.
Problem is, the town is effectively run by Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), an entrepreneur who carries the population around in his pocket due to his ownership of most of the local businesses. So when Dalton fires much of the corrupted staff of the Double Deuce, all of whom walk hand in hand with Wesley, he incurs the wrath of the vicious tycoon. Things only worsen when Dalton begins a romance with Elizabeth “Doc” Clay (Kelly Lynch), a bombshell doctor for whom Wesley once pined.
We don’t have to talk about the fact that Swayze is leaden, that Uma Thurman is more convincing of a martial artist than he is, that Gazzara is too one-dimensional of a villain to really detest, that the screenplay takes itself much too seriously, that Rowdy Herrington directs without much personality, or that it’s disappointing that Dalton apparently has a Ph.D yet chooses to bounce as a living. Because Road House is mindless entertainment meant to entertain instead of convince, meant to excite instead of pass by with action plausibility.
It wants to be a quasi-cool action movie that uses a ridiculous storyline to make an excuse for its sometimes-questionable violence, but it doesn’t feel like much besides a series of brutal fist fights paired with a flimsy plot. Road House is distracting, all right, but age hasn’t been kind to its youthful, tanned face, and there’s a reason why Swayze remains a decade staple instead of an actor meant to take seriously. C