Patrick Swayze, who left us much too soon at the age of 57, followed up his phenomenal breakout performance as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing (1987) with three characterless performances, designed to capitalize on his machismo and rugged masculinity – the best of these, Rowdy Herrington’s Road House (1989); the rather sordid, and marginally idiotic story about a seemingly ‘super human’ bouncer for hire. Swayze is James Dalton – his legendary renown as ‘Dalton’ – a cooler, notorious for taking some very rough trade nightclubs and transforming them into classy enclaves where the elite do more than meet, but keep it all behind closed doors. Dalton’s a ‘cool customer’; his steely gaze, sinewy frame and impeccably tailored wardrobe making him the envy of every man and the target of too many liquored up buffoons who moronically think they can ‘take’ Dalton on and win. Dalton may not be as big as some of these steroidal dead heads. In point of fact, one of the movies running gags is “I thought you’d be taller.” But Dalton keeps himself extremely fit and maintains a clear head at all times; thinking his way through a series of spectacularly violent bar fights that predictably end in his favor. For Swayze, a classically trained dancer, these staged fisticuffs seem almost second nature; choreographed with a dancer’s finesse and the actor’s eye for exploiting the human form in almost balletic terms. There is an artistry to Swayze’s execution of the classic barroom brawl that belies the usual muscly thug encounters we are used to seeing on the screen; a sort of elegance matched up to some truly devastating brawn. It works - spectacularly well – lending Dalton an air of sophistication that is never smug, overbearing or gauche.
Less successful is David Lee Henry (R. Lance Hill) and Hilary Henkin’s whacky screenplay, migrating the ‘frontier justice’ motif of a classic shoot ‘em up actioner/western to the ‘then’ present, setting most of the head-smashing in and around an out of the way road house, built on the outskirts of a seedy little town, fascistically dominated by Brad Wesley (Ben Gazarra); a middle-aged millionaire fat cat who delights in manhandling virtually all he surveys with a sort of clouded, delusional psychosis. Point blank: Wesley’s money has gone to his head. He wouldn’t be the first man to think a bank role the size of Bolivia can expunge virtually any and all sins while lending an air of entitlement to his authority. And, true to this archetype, dear ole Wes’ has surrounded himself with a butch goon squad; renegade mercenaries, perpetually scowled and packing a small arsenal of weaponry as though they were plotting to invade a third world hell hole next week. Road House is an odd movie to critique because it precariously teeters between its virtues and vices; a good ‘bad’ movie, as it were, that did not set the world on fire at the box office. Nevertheless, Road House has gone on to develop a cult status as one of those guilty little pleasures to be enjoyed by exactly the sort of armchair warrior who would aspire to be a James Dalton, but more oft’ than not leans heavily toward the latter ilk of the big bully with a perpetual ‘hard on’ for co-star, Kelly Lynch.
With her teased out 80’s tresses and a slinky bod immaculately tailored in form-fitting gowns (even her doctor’s scrubs look as though they have been customized by Lord & Taylor) Lynch’s Dr. Elizabeth Clay is precisely the sexpot to cause the usually austere Dalton to throw his usual caution to the wind, sit up and take notice. She is also the sort Wesley would prefer to add to his collection of feline ‘for hire’ vixens; gals, dear ole Wes’ would not have a hope in hell of acquiring, much less satisfying any other way except by showing off the girth of his wallet. Money, money, money…it’s a rich man’s game. Ben Gazarra is an actor I have merely, if unfairly, tolerated over the years, if for no other reason, than he always seems perennially cast as the sulking brute suffering from a ‘short man’s complex. Personally, I feel Gazarra’s best movie is Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959), though chiefly because it stars, James Stewart and has the uber-sexy Lee Remick in it. Gazarra holds his own in that movie, but he still plays the dirty little bastard hoping to stand tall using shoe inserts instead of personality and class to achieve his not terribly prepossessing disguise. Road House needs another villain comparable in physical stature to our hero, so we get Anthony De Longis, a pro-stuntman/coordinator cum actor, as Wesley’s leering henchman, Gary Ketchum, Marshall Teague, as steely-eyed Jimmy, and, Gary Hudson as Steve – a real scruffy dog of a disgruntled coworker, looking to kick some proverbial butt simply because he thinks he can. Viewed in the right frame of mind, Road House comes across as an unabashedly sexist and ultra-violent smash up; a sort of demolition derby that uses human remains instead of cars to achieve the same effect: Dalton, frequently putting his finely honed body in peril, getting his muscly gut and arms stabbed, shot, and cut wide open with broken beer bottles, switchblades and knives. Exactly how this daily desecration of the human body is supposed to equate to butch manliness has, frankly, always escaped me, though I sincerely acknowledge it has had precisely that effect on scores of young men, most, I assume (always a dangerous thing to do) inculcated with the notion brawn trumps brains, and, secretly desiring to retreat to our knuckle-dragging Neanderthal past where ‘men’ were ‘men’, indiscriminately clubbing prey, their women and each other over the head with a dispassionate grunt for simply getting the job done.
The trouble for Road House is it desperately wants to illustrate precisely the opposite; Dalton’s superior intellect outfoxing these hulking monsters and the Brainiac puppet master pulling their strings. One might sincerely suggest, ‘Okay, so what’s wrong with that?’ the obvious reply being, that if Dalton is such a smart fellow, with a good head snapped onto his sport n’ shaved broad shoulders, why does he repeatedly place both it and what’s attached from the neck down in imminent peril. It doesn’t make for sound logic, does it… or even from the perspective of an ex-military special ops assassin, forsaking his rather gruesome past, yet called upon again to do some bare-fisted throat-ripping (literally). As I stated earlier, put in the proper context, it is possible to be ‘entertained’ by this sort of needless butt and brain-bashing blood feud in much the same way WWE Wrestlemania and UFC caged kickboxing has its ardent followers and armchair champions. But Patrick Swayze is an perceptive actor. It is precisely this strain of intellect, coupled with an infinitely more manly grace as a real ‘Southern’ gentleman, and an intuitive sensitivity that made Swayze profoundly appealing to both men and women in the first place. And Swayze has proven the ability to poke fun at life and his place in it in tandem, and, to stride, not with just an air of masculine confidence, but equally as aesthetically pleasing cadence.
There is more to his saunter than the swagger for which far too many male action stars of any generation have seen necessary to exaggerate as though a pair of ten ton balls were clanging back and forth in their Jockeys. As such, Swayze is largely working against type as Dalton. He succeeds, primarily because he is a better actor than most any critic of his day gave him credit. But he is also going against the grain of that highly desirable ‘cuttie/toughie’ he portrayed in Dirty Dancing, and, the stalwart, charger-riding southerner, Orrie Maine, he depicted on TV’s monumental miniseries, North and South. Both performances made Patrick Swayze the stud du jour. Road House wastes no time knocking that reputation down a peg or three; a genuine betrayal of the principles Swayze innately possesses and has presented for our infinite enjoyment elsewhere. Subsequent attempts Swayze made to break out of the conventions of his inbred politeness and respectability, as in 1991’s Point Break (now, also considered something of a cult classic), nevertheless illustrated then, as now, the misguidedness in that exercise. You can’t take the ‘gentle’ out of the man. More to the point – why would anyone want to?
Road House opens, appropriately enough, with a mild skirmish inside an upscale nightclub; Dalton interceding after one of the patrons gets hostile with his ‘lady of the night’ and pulls a knife to slash open his shoulder. Unnerved by either the assault or the obvious pain, Dalton has the drunken morons escorted to the edge of the property before retiring to his private office. Dalton is a pragmatist, packing his own surgical kit and expertly stitching together his gaping flesh wound. Evidently, he has had a lot of practice. This impresses Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe); the proprietor of the Double Deuce – an out-of-the-way honkytonk in desperate need of some tough civilization, so described as a one-time ‘sweet deal’ but now the sort of place ‘where they sweep the eyeballs up after hours’. Dalton recommends Wade Garrett for the job. But Tilghman wants Dalton. For $5000 up front, $500 a night and all medical expenses paid, Tilghman gets his man. Dalton makes his way, tossing the keys to his beat up Chevy to a homeless guy (Chino 'Fats' Williams) before tearing off in a brand new Mercedes to the town of Jasper. The Double Deuce is every bit the cesspool Dalton expected. Some of the bouncers are more interested in feeling up the barely legal female clientele than in doing their job, others are inebriated on their own brutish, thick-headed power trip, and a few of the waitresses are dealing drugs in the bathroom. Cody (Jeff Healey and his Band) and his band have to be kept behind a protective screen as the shirtless, lewd and thoroughly bombed out of their respective gourds, frequently throw trash and beer bottles to exercise both their idiotic approval and disrespect for the live entertainment. In short order, Dalton is told by Morgan (one of the biggest bullies of a bouncer, who does not recognize him as their new ‘boss’ man) if he isn’t drinking he is gone. But good-nature waitress, Carrie-Anne (Kathleen Wilhoite) encourages Dalton to ignore the intimidation. Not that Dalton is intimidated, or even put off by what he sees. On the contrary, the Double Deuce is exactly the sort of bottom-feeding pit Dalton is going to relish transforming into an upscale class act where everyone can feel welcome and safe.
In short order, Dalton sets himself up inside the barn loft of local farmer, Emmett (Sunshine Parker). The property is divided by a modest lake. On the other side sits the stately manor of Brad Wesley. The millionaire’s arrival by helicopter deliberately spooks Emmett’s horses. We later learn, Wesley is determined to run Emmett off the land that has been in his family for generations. Dalton does not take kindly to claim jumpers any more than he appreciates drunkards. Dalton makes waves for driving a beat-up ’65 Buick Riviera; his cool demeanor unsettling to Tilghman’s bouncers who prefer the roughhousing antics of streetfighters to Dalton’s more refined and militaristic diffusion of any situation. Without hesitation, and after being placed in charge by Tilghman at a joint meeting of all the staff, Dalton fires Morgan on the spot; also the waitress dealing drugs on the not so sly. Now, Dalton lays down some basic ground rules. People who want to have a good time do not patronize ‘a slaughterhouse’ with too many power drinkers, felons and trustees of modern chemistry running amuck. So, Rule #1 – never, underestimate your opponent. Number two: take all altercations outside. And Rule #3…be nice.
These three simple rules, or Dalton’s law, are tested when a drunken moron allows his equally as inebriated girlfriend to perform a table dance. Dalton orders one of his own, Hank (Kurt James Stefka) to intercede. And while Hank obeys Dalton to the letter, he is accosted at the point of a switchblade until Dalton breaks up the brawl, casually splitting the table in half using the drunk’s own head; then, ordering the disorientated fool ‘escorted’ to the front door without further delay. His short shrift finesse impresses everyone and convinces Tilghman he has hired the right guy to manage his club. But Dalton is not finished. He barges into the storeroom where another bouncer, Steve has a willing female patron over a barrel – literally. Dalton fires Steve on the spot. “I’m on break,” is his excuse. “Stay on it,” is Dalton’s quick reply. Dalton also confronts bartender, Pat McGurn (John Doe), who is regularly skimming the till for about $150 a night. “Consider it severance pay,” says Dalton, before giving Pat his walking papers. And while Tilghman is exceptionally impressed with Dalton’s results, Dalton also warns him, “It’ll get worse before it gets better.” Indeed, exiting the club later that night, Dalton discovers all four of his tires slashed and his windshield smashed. But hey, he takes it all in stride.
Come to fix his car, Dalton has his first cordial meeting with Brad Wesley inside Red Webster’s (Red West) local auto parts store; the congenial Red forewarning Dalton never to marry an ugly woman; a bad joke that continues to sour as the mood turns palpably more ominous with Wesley’s arrival; his henchman, Jimmy (Marshall Teague) and Dalton exchanging a few penetrating stares. Not long thereafter, Wesley observes from his property line as Dalton indulges in some meditational Tai Chi moves. Aside: there are two valid criticisms I have of Road House: first, it is a movie teeming with the objectification of Patrick Swayze’s male form, so much that we might just as well have had an extended ‘workout’ video featuring Swayze in place of what’s here; sweat glistening in the sunlight; the camera’s 360 degree love affair set to some exotic strains of Michael Kamen’s underscore. Perhaps, a hard man is good to film?!? Earlier, we were given the obligatory nude butt crack for which a certain vintage of 80’s action movies are, at least in hindsight, justly (in)famous. Road House is, I suspect, endeavoring to establish its equal opportunity sexism to appeal to a broader audience; men, who will pay to see some aggressive ass-whipping, and women, who will simply pay to see Swayze’s loins, preferably unsheathed without giving away the full-frontal of goodies. After all, let us leave something to the imagination and the R-rating.
It does not take long for the Double Deuce to be revisited by Pat, who holds Tilghman hostage in his office at knifepoint with a couple of his goons. Dalton valiantly defends his employer, but he is severely wounded in the side; sauntering off to the local hospital where he is promptly treated by Dr. Elizabeth Clay, adding eight staples to his laundry list of other sundry war wounds and broken bones. This leads to my second problem with Road House; namely, its sincerely flawed love interest. Actress, Kelly Lynch is undeniably good eye candy. But she is too much in love with Dalton from the get go. Despite wearing glasses – a hopeless effort by costume designer, Marilyn Vance to dowdy up her blonde surfer girl looks while adding a more bookish charm to her character – even draped in a hand-me-down physician’s white coat, Lynch is no more convincing as an emergency room practitioner than Ben Gazarra is as the movie’s diminutive, if ever so slightly menacing tyrant. The good doctor and Dalton share a playful exchange of dialogue – arguably, the best piece of ‘bad writing’ in the movie. She gets to know him socially and he welcomes her flirtations. It is an almost screwball cute meet; willy-nilly inserted between all the boozing, ballin’ and brawlin’, but like the other set pieces in this increasingly unwieldy mishmash, it just does not fit.
Dalton arrives at Red’s hardware to find the place totally trashed. Red explains the situation; Wesley owns the town. All the businesses paying a cut of ten percent to start, the ante going up and up with the proverbial ‘hot coals and thumb screws’ tactics applied to insure everyone pays up on time and in full. Tilghman is not beholding to Wesley and that is a problem. Having failed in his previous assaults on the club, Wesley now sends a small army of his best thug muscle, including Gary Ketchum to perform a little roughhousing and remodeling tear down. But Dalton and his newly trained entourage are ready for them. “You’re too stupid to have a good time,” Dalton tells Ketchum, before twisting his ankle and dragging the goon outside for a good skirmish in the dust that ends in abject humiliation for Ketchum and his boys. Now, the romance between Elizabeth and Dalton heats up. Apparently, there is nothing hotter to a woman than a man who can defend himself. In short order, Liz joins Dalton for some feral tomcatting on the rooftop; their steamy sex observed by Wesley from a distance. More butt crack and boobage on display. Sometime later, Wesley summons Dalton to his home, ostensibly, to make him an offer he cannot refuse. Wesley threatens Dalton with exposure of a sordid chapter from his history as a bouncer – knowledge that he killed a man in cold blood in Memphis, using his tactical military training to rip the other guy’s throat out with his bare hands. Although the law classified the incident as ‘self-defense’, Wesley suggests he can have the exoneration overturned. Wesley tries to buy off Dalton. But it is no use. Dalton will never work for Wesley.
A short while later, Dalton learns from Cody Wesley had ‘a thing’ for Liz. But before Dalton can contemplate the ramifications of screwing around with the plaything of Jasper’s biggest gangster, the liquor truck has arrived for unloading out back. Too bad this is a surprise ambush; Morgan and a few nondescript thugs taking Dalton to task and managing – briefly – to get the upper hand. Dalton is spared a good pummeling by the arrival of his ole buddy, Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott); the ‘cooler’, Dalton has always idolized. Wade is, after all, the best in the biz and despite his graying mop of straggly hair has lost absolutely none of his vim or vigor to get the job done. In short order, Dalton and Wade clean house, mopping the pavement with Morgan and his buffoons. Dalton introduces Wade to Elizabeth. Wade approves, but not if Dalton refuses to let go of the past; the man he killed in self-defense in Memphis. Partly as retribution, Wesley gives the command to have Red’s store torched; making light of the blaze later on inside the Double Deuce. Unwilling to exacerbate the situation, Dalton allows Wesley and his entourage their visit, hoping to quell the bad blood. Alas, it won’t work; car dealership owner, Pete Stroudenmire (Jon Paul Jones) the next to be taken to task for not paying his dues. Ketchum derives the greatest of pleasures from demolishing Pete’s showroom and flattening four of his prized station wagons with a monster truck as Dalton looks on.
As night falls, Liz implores Dalton to get out of town. But before they can debate the issue, Emmett’s house is rocked by a gas explosion; Dalton witnessing Jimmy fleeing the scene and making chase after him on foot. The two men take their stance. Dalton has had enough. But Jimmy is a potent adversary. In this fight to the finish only one man will walk away. His rage exposed for the first time in a very long while, Dalton rips Jimmy’s throat out with his bare hands; the murder witnessed by Elizabeth; now, quite uncertain as to what sort of man she has given her body, heart and soul to in the name of love. Dalton receives an ominous phone call from Wesley who vows to have either Wade or Liz murdered. At this same instance, Wade staggers into the Double Deuce, badly beaten but very much alive. Believing Elizabeth to be the real target of Wesley’s revenge, Dalton races to the hospital. Alas, she has taken a step back from her feelings for Dalton and wants nothing more to do with him. Returning to the Double Deuce, Dalton discovers Wade’s body splayed out on the bar with a knife stuck into his chest. Fighting back tears, an enraged Dalton dislodges the blade and jumps into his Mercedes, determined to settle the score with Wesley once and for all.
Wesley’s boys are ready for him, certain the Mercedes barreling toward them at top speeds belongs to Dalton. They are partly right. It is Dalton’s car. Only Dalton isn’t in it; Wesley’s men discovering the knife used to murder Wade holding down the accelerator. With militaristic precision, Dalton picks off Wesley’s toughs one at a time. Now Wesley is determined to kill his arch nemesis. It is a brutal scene, ended only for a moment when it appears as though Dalton will kill the old bugger in the same manner he finished off Jimmy. Instead, Dalton withdraws. Despite his earlier altercation with Jimmy, Dalton is not a bad man; just a good one thrust into some very bad circumstances. It’s over as far as he is concerned. He wants nothing more to do with Wesley, Jasper or the Double Deuce. Too bad, Wesley does not play by the mark of Queensberry Rules, seizing the opportunity of Dalton’s back turned to reach for his concealed pistol. Dalton is spared death by Red, Emmett, Stroudenmire and Tilghman; each man unloading either his pistol or shotgun into Wesley’s body with calculated revenge. Before the law can arrive the weapons are stashed, each man now backing up the others’ innocence. Nobody saw anything; the secret of how Wesley met with his justly deserved, if gruesome end, left an open-ended mystery. Unable to simply leave the plot here, director, Rowdy Herrington adds an obligatory footnote - the ‘love scene’; Elizabeth and Dalton locked in a passionate embrace at the ole swimming hole, suggesting a reconciliation and Dalton’s desire to retire from being a ‘cooler’ for good. After all, he has found the right woman…or at least a very firm one… with which to share the rest of his life, or so it would seem.
Road House is a fairly inconsistently rendered entertainment; just one extended ‘fight sequence’ intermittently interrupted by a few lighter moments to make the grotesqueness of the human carnage palpable. Unfortunately, these characters have very little to say in between sweaty, blood-soaked bits of business; the dialogue perfunctory at best and largely constructed around pithy retorts and a lot of male chest-thumping to suggest the real mettle of any man is in his fists, not his head. Wrong, rubbish and badly done! Patrick Swayze does his best to offer us an ‘intelligent’ read of this remarkably inarticulate student of life and philosophy. It is primarily due to his diligence as an actor, a lot of this own soul-searching, plus some fairly graceful maneuvers besides, that Swayze succeeds in at least hinting at a man with hidden qualities worth fighting for. But Kelly Lynch is a write off; taut, sexy flesh without any thought processes going on behind the eyes. Out of her doctor’s scrubs, she carries herself like leggy white trash with an attitude and on the prowl; her indignation at witnessing Dalton kill Jimmy a real misfire for which Lynch cannot seem to muster anything more affecting than a pouting grimace with big wounded cow eyes. The rest of the cast are cardboard cutouts at best; their screen presence relying wholly on the actors’ real-life presence to sustain.
As example, what do we know about the gawky waitress, Carrie-Anne? She brings Dalton his morning coffee, and, in an early scene that goes nowhere, is left to gaze admiringly at Swayze’s naked butt crack. Yet, it is Kathleen Wilhoite’s smiling eyes and toothy grin, always reminded me rather distinctly of Janice, the Muppet lead singer from the band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, along with her southern drawl, that give us ‘the character’. Wilhoite is the presence, not the embodiment of a character in this movie. One can argue, we need not discover anything else about this character, as she is just part of the backdrop. The problem herein is virtually everyone in Road House is ‘just part of the backdrop’. Even Ben Gazarra’s villainous geezer is a walking cliché. If Brad Wesley is the ranking kingpin of Jasper, what could he possibly hope to gain by such obvious intimidation tactics? At one point, Wesley informs Dalton the town of Jasper owes him everything because he alone has been responsible for bringing such big business investments as J.C. Penny to town. But would a big retailer like Penny truly flock to this dirt road enclave on Wesley say so alone, especially since his tug-o-war with the locals has generated a sort of ‘frontier justice’ animosity surely to discourage more progressively-minded big American corporations to partake of Wesley’s ‘progressive’ plans for the future. And what would Wesley want of this competition anyway; a conglomerate certain to abstain from his thuggish extortion tactics.
No, the premise is flawed. The Hill/Henkin screenplay would have done better to telescopically focus on Dalton’s reformation of the Double Deuce; the camaraderie fostered between the remaining bouncers loyal to Dalton and their boss, Tilghman, and the mounting romantic chemistry between Dalton and Elizabeth. It’s a no brainer actually; except that grey matter seems to have been in short supply or taken a complete holiday elsewhere during the executive decision-making process and artistic choices made by director, Rowdy Herrington. The story is a bust – more than mangled by the rising body count. We must give kudos to stunt coordinator, Charlie Piccerni, fight sequence trainer, Benny Urquidez and the myriad of stunt men and women, too numerous to list herein, for their incredibly varied work. Road House features some of the most ingenious and unhinged bar room brawls yet achieved on the movie screen; full scale, bone-crushing/body-slamming assaults that, even under the most stringent safety conditions, must have been sincerely painful to pull off. Arguably, it is their work in totem that has maintained Road House’s reputation as a cult classic; a…um… ‘fun’ actioner for the blockbuster summer crowd ever since, but that it miserably failed to entice back in 1989.
On an estimated $17 million dollar budget, Road House went on to gross a respectable $30,050,028.00; hardly a sleeper, but a sizable return on investment nevertheless. Today, Road House rises and falls on the reputation of the late Patrick Swayze. Yet, it is disheartening to think of Swayze in these terms, given short shrift as beefcake poured into a pair of form-fitting jeans, stripped raw for the obligatory butt cheek moment, though otherwise utterly denied the opportunity to act his way out of a paper bag in this wafer-thin/no nothing, plot-less, pointless, and, occasionally plodding blood-bashing/ball-breaking spectacle of testosterone run amuck. Swayze had more to offer and proved it elsewhere in his screen achievements. Road House is far from his finest hour. In fact, it is nothing more than a footnote to his career. Apart from Swayze’s presence, the movie is blessed to have cinematographer, Dean Cundey; an artist with an eye for lensing 2.35:1 aspect ratio images that are always interesting to look at, finding the depth in his visual presentations, utterly lacking in the story’s plot or otherwise nonexistent character development. In the final analysis, Road House is a dumb, silly movie made for chicken-livered boys and bullies who think getting into fights is cool – at least, from the relatively safe distance of their movie screens, and, men who still have not entirely grown up to realize there is more to life than a brain-bashing free for all. Ugh – what an insincere waste of time, money and talent.
Road House is part of Shout! Entertainment’s newly christened ‘select series’. That, in and of itself, should clearly delineate that whatever the company’s branding ambitions, the label itself is certainly no Criterion. I don’t know what to make of this release; described as a new 2K derived from the interpositive and remastered to Dean Cundey’s specs. For all of Cundey’s enduring reputation as the ‘Dean of Darkness’ this reissue of Road House is considerably lighter and brighter than its predecessor, released – and endlessly repackaged – by MGM Home Video. Also, why 2K when 4K is fast becoming the norm? Oh right, it’s MGM providing the master; hardly a ‘forward thinking’ studio. How much better Road House might have looked remastered in 4K is negligible, since this remaster has adopted some fairly filtered purplish tints. Flesh tones look unnatural for most of the time; somewhat less so during scenes shot outdoors in the raw daylight. Also, luma scale and/or gamma levels have been tinkered with; the image a bit less contrasty as a result and adopting a much cooler palette. Is this truer to how the original movie looked in theaters? Hmmm. For certain, the 2K mastering has marginally improved on MGM’s outdated old MPEG-2 encoding. We will applaud this; also, the 5.1 DTS audio. The original 2.0 is also included for purists. But the 5.1 is a good solid spatial presentation; Jeff Healey’s songs and the SFX throughout sounding pretty aggressive. Michael Kamen’s score has badly dated, but otherwise is nicely preserved herein.
Shout! has ported over the two audio commentaries that were part of the ole MGM Blu-ray release; one featuring Rowdy Herrington, who divides his time discussing and defending his creative decisions, the other commentary something of a gushing appraisal from Kevin Smith and Scott Moser. Also carried over on a separate disc is ‘On the Road House’ – a reflection piece made for the 20th anniversary of the movie, and, What Would Dalton Do?; a featurette on real-life bouncers who regale us with some of their most cringe-worthy experiences. New to Blu is ‘The Making of Road House’ – a reflective piece reuniting Herrington with Kelly Lynch, John Doe, Kevin Tighe, Julie Michaels, Red West, Lisa Niemi Swayze, casting director, Jackie Burch, director of photography, Dean Cundey and editor, Frank Urioste. For all its cast involvement, it really is more of a puff piece riddled in sound bites instead of good solid critiquing. Also, new, is Remembering Patrick, by far the most bittersweet and heartfelt of the featurettes, with Swayze’s widow weighing in on what the loss has meant since, and Swayze’s costars remembering the ‘good times’ shared on the set. The goodies continue with ‘A Conversation with Rowdy Herrington’; another puff piece; the director covering a lot of ground already explored in his audio commentary and the ‘making of’ featurette. Two more featurettes, ‘Pain Don’t Hurt’ – devoted to the stunt coordination – and ‘The Music of Road House (self-explanatory, n’est pas?) round out the extras. Bottom line: Road House really did not deserve such a ‘deluxe’ treatment. I suppose it is fitting Shout! has thrown in some real money on a movie and a Blu-ray they so clearly feel has legs to provide a sizable return on their investment. Only time and sales will tell. But I can think of at least a hundred other deep catalog titles more worthy of this sort of treatment, as yet, MIA on Blu-ray. Tastes will obviously vary, but Road House isn’t exactly the Citizen Kane of all ‘bouncer makes good’ movies. Not that this was ever its aspiration.
FILM RATING (out of 5 – 5 being the best)