Kevin: “Appear weak when you are strong, strong when you are weak.” “Never underestimate your opponent, expect the unexpected.” “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” “Nobody ever wins a fight.” “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” “I used to fuck guys like you in prison.”
It’s somewhat hard to discern which of the above quotes came from Sun Tzu’s centuries-old military manual “The Art of War” and which came from 1989’s “Road House” (for the record it’s 1, 3, and 5 for Sun Tzu), but that just points to how surprisingly deep and philosophical the Patrick Swayze ass-kicker is for a movie that features multiple barroom brawls, monster trucks driving through car dealerships, and a fat guy named Tinker who says, “A polar bear fell on me.” Although it was beaten its opening weekend by the forgotten Gene Wilder-Richard Pryor comedy “See No Evil, Hear No Evil,” the cult of “Road House” has only continued to grow over the years, so CJ and I decided to check it out on the big screen again because, hey why not, it’s “Road House”!
So CJ I think this will be a shorter-than-usual Tag Team because it’s hard to think of anything that hasn’t already been said about the awesomeness of “Road House,” other than that there is nothing more fulfilling than a ridiculous ‘80s action movie that didn’t realize it would be enjoyed somewhat ironically 20 years later. But can I start by asking if any human being in history had the range that Patrick Swayze had in real life?
Think about it, he was a ballet dancer, football player, movie star, singer, martial artist, chain smoker, heartthrob, devoted husband, and probably one of the few people on earth who could pull off being a sensitive man’s man. And he was great at all those things! According to Rob Lowe’s autobiography, when the two of them starred in “Youngblood,” Swayze not only became an expert hockey player seemingly overnight, but he wrote a song in his free time that later became a #1 hit.
And yet do we agree that of our two legendary “coolers” in “Road House,” we’d actually rather be Sam Elliott than Swayze? First of all, I think it’s a commonly known fact that Sam Elliott rules, and like a fine wine or vintage porn he only gets better over time. But we’ve also seen the film three times on the big screen in the last few years, and it’s been obvious that while the ladies in the audience may have come for Swayze’s bare ass, I think they would totally be DTF for Elliott by the end. He even makes blatantly trying to fuck his best friend’s girlfriend seem charming and chivalrous.
Speaking of, is “Road House” the rare action movie that caters to the baser instincts of both genders equally? For the ladies we get copious amounts of naked Swayze flesh, as well as an alarmingly up-close look at the edge of Elliott’s pubic hair, and for the men we get awesome fights, monster trucks, and some of the most primo ‘80s slutz as background extras ever put to film.
Finally, is this the lowest stakes ever for an action film? Maybe “The Rookie” is close, but at least Clint is avenging the death of his partner. The entire hero’s journey in “Road House” is mainly about making sure the inhabitants of some small-town Missouri shithole have a better establishment in which to get drunk.
CJ: Sorry for the delay, I was up all night sitting in a rocking chair watching my neighbors across the river bang on their roof. I didn’t do anything mind you, just watched.
This is gonna sound weird, but every time I see “Road House” I am completely mesmerized by how Patrick Swayze walks. It’s like he’s doing the no-arm-swinging walk from “Seinfeld.” Also, his blazer weirdly never seems to fit. I can only assume there was a cut scene where we find out he was given hand-me-down blazers from a much bigger Wade, and continues to wear them in tribute. Because the other explanation is that the only character Swayze can’t play is one who buys proper-fitting clothing.
Speaking of Wade, yes, we need to get it out there that we all secretly would rather be him, and who wouldn’t? He’s tall, has sweeter and more luscious locks than Swayze, and is the only old person to use the term “mijo” and not sound like a rapist. I also enjoy how he seems to laugh after every fight, regardless of how much serious damage is done to him. Do you think he goes to the ER, is told he has multiple broken ribs, and his only response is something like “Hehe, yeah those boys had a real zest for life”?
Speaking of him hitting on Kelly Lynch, was I the only one a little creeped out about how serious and not-all-kidding he seemed to be about stealing her away from his supposed best friend? Here he is, dancing with Lynch, hiding his boner, flat out telling her he wants her for himself, and Swayze jokingly tells her not to believe a word he says. Does he laugh, shoot a flirty wink? Nope, he squints his eyes and says “Don’t bet on it.” Everyone in the theater was laughing, but it dawned on me right there that Wade is totally ready to stab his lifelong friend over Kelly Lynch.
Now you bring up a good point about how low the stakes are, which leads me to several questions:
First, why does a bouncer transform a bar’s reputation seemingly overnight? Wouldn’t the redesign itself take care of that? I mean, when Dalton first shows up the place is a total piece of shit, with crappy furniture and a chain-link fence around the band. By the time the redesign happens, it’s all kinds of ‘80s swank, which means higher prices that would drive out the low-rent customers. Also they hired a black bartender, so all kinds of white trash are not showing up anymore.
Second, what happens to the town now that Brad Wesley is dead? If he brought in all the commercial industries, are they just going to leave? And how was Brad so instrumental in this town’s success, when all he seems to do is torch any business that looks at him the wrong way and throw cocaine-fueled pool parties?
Third, according to Wikipedia, as of 2016 the town of Jasper, Missouri, had a population of 937 people. So, is this the only bar in town? If not, the Double Deuce’s success effectively means any other bars are now wiped out and those owners now can’t feed their families, right? So isn’t Double Deuce owner Tilghman the actual villain?
Bonus question: Why were none of the policeman at the end all that appalled or suspicious that a blood-soaked, bullet-riddled Brad Wesley was lying dead on the ground surrounded by several men with clear motives to kill him?
God this movie is so effing perfect.
Kevin: Not only do they hire a black bartender, but said bartender is KEITH FUCKING DAVID! And then as if they want to prove this is no big deal, they give him like one line in the entire movie (I think it was something like “whiskey’s running low”). What other movie could introduce Keith David, give him nothing to do, and yet you don’t care because everything else is so awesome? That’s the power of “Road House.”
(Apparently he originally had a much bigger role in the film, because why would you hire Keith David to be a glorified background extra? So does that mean we may someday be gifted with an extended “Road House: Keith David Edition” in the future?)
Now speaking of the bar’s transformation, what is the timeline for “Road House”? Because for the first half of the movie the Double Deuce is a decrepit rundown dive with scuzzball patrons, yet out of nowhere it all of a sudden is a super swanky high-end nightclub with rich yuppies waiting round the block to get in. When did this entire remodel of the bar occur? And now that the place has been classed up and no longer features nightly redneck riots, how long does Tilgham need to keep paying Dalton $500 night and employing 18 bouncers?
But no matter what the quality of the bar is, apparently the live entertainment at the Double Deuce every night no matter what is the Jeff Healy Band. How long was the band supposed be playing there? When he talks to Dalton at the beginning, he says this gig is worse than the one they had in some other one-horse town. So it’s not like they live here, this apparently is just another gig for some traveling band, but as we see by the end, Jasper has a “Twilight Zone”-like hold on everyone who arrives, since no one seems to be able to leave.
Speaking of Dalton and Jeff Healy, you would think they would find it more noteworthy that they both just happened to get hired at the most god-awful bar in all of the Midwest at the same time, but apparently this happens a lot. In fact, as with “Over the Top,” which posits a world in which every establishment has an arm-wrestling station and people are constantly challenging strangers to arm-wrestling duels as if that’s a normal occurrence, in the world of “Road House” bouncers are apparently modern-day samurais roaming the country, who are known, respected, and feared wherever they go (Wade even puts his hair into a samurai-style ponytail before going into battle at one point). Not only do people in the bar industry know all about these guys, but so do regular folks, like the guy at the beginning who cuts Dalton with a knife and says he’s heard all about his legend.
Speaking of, the movie also takes place in a world in which complete strangers in bars pull knives on each other over the most minor of disagreements. Like the one guy who is so concerned with making sure that his lady is allowed to dance drunkenly on a table that he pulls a switchblade and is apparently ready to murder one of Dalton’s bouncers. I feel like guys who do this more than a few times in real life usually don’t have a long life expectancy.
Also, we are told that Dalton is the best cooler in the business, with Wade right behind now that he is getting older. But how the hell can you really judge how much better Wade is than some other guy at mildly restraining a drunk National Guardsman from jumping onto the stage at a strip bar?
I also have to ask why Wade drove across the country to check on Dalton after one phone call, especially when Dalton didn’t give any impression he was in trouble. I also don’t know why he would want to leave his previous employer to begin with, since it seems like the kind of place I would think only exists in my fantasies. It’s a cool-looking dive bar with cheap beer, sports on the TV, and pool tables, but if for some reason that’s not enough entertainment, you’ll also see some of the hottest Playboy Playmates of the 1980’s dancing topless on stage next to the cigarette vending machine!
I also wanted to note how rag-tag Brad Wesley’s goon squad is. There is really no rhyme or reason to who he hires, they run the gamut from 7-foot-tall giant, to prison-raping martial artist, to middle-aged guy in a tie, to a grossly obese dude who gets comically scared and empties an entire clip into a stuffed polar bear because he thinks it’s come to life. Mostly he just seems to automatically hire anyone who has been fired by Tilghman, although weirdly we never see the guy who gets fired after Dalton finds him balls deep in an under-21 girl in the backroom. Considering how much animosity he shows for Dalton I was sure he’d show up again, but I guess once he got a job managing the local Dairy Queen he got over it.
Finally, considering how easy it turned out to be to murder Wesley with no repercussions whatsoever, you gotta think that the good citizens of Jasper are feeling pretty stupid that they didn’t kill that putz years ago. And what exactly did Jasper get in exchange for letting him take over their town? At one point he says they have a 7-11, a PhotoMat, and are about to get a J.C. Penney’s thanks to him.
That’s it? If I were him I’d be a little embarrassed that that’s all I could point to after three decades of holding an iron grip on Jasper. Also, what was J.C. Penney’s thought process here? “Yeah let’s open a store in a town of less than 1,000 people that’s controlled by some crazy old fuck, who will immediately start ripping us off and then will likely burn us down at some point. But we heard a rumor that Dillard’s is interested, so we gotta make a move!”