6 / 10
In Road House, Patrick Swayze plays the coolest guy in the universe. His name is Dalton and he’s a bouncer. Don’t worry, he’s not the kind of bouncer you and I are used to. For a start, he doesn’t look a bald Hagrid; he speaks in mostly complete sentences; and he’s unlikely to refuse you entry to his bar because your shoes aren’t “funky casual”. God I hate bouncers.
But not Dalton. No, within the evening entertainment industry, Dalton is to bouncers what Tom Cruise is to cocktail mixers and Channing Tatum is to strippers.
Dalton’s reputation as the toughest, cleanest bouncer going around earns him a visit from Frank, the owner of the Double Deuce road house. How to describe the Double Deuce. I suppose if you combined the Gold Coast’s Shooters with Canberra’s Mooseheads, replaced all the ice cubes with crystal meth, put a chicken wire cage around the band, and then invited all rival bikie gangs, the Western Australian women’s water polo team and Todd Carney to $3 jägerbomb night, you’d have something resembling the Double Deuce.
Frank is sick and tired of combing blood and barf out of his bar staff’s hair, so he seeks Dalton’s help to restore a bit of civility to the Deuce. Dalton’s up for the challenge, packs some spare tires into the boot of his Benz (in anticipation of the inevitable Deuce car park tire knifings) and hits the road for Missouri.
Dalton wastes no time cleaning up the Deuce. He fires all the bald Hagrids, orders neat matching polo shirts for the bar staff, pulls down the chicken wire and presumably scraps the “funky casual” dress code. In no time Dalton’s got the Deuce looking more like a Hog’s Breath Cafe.
Dalton’s number one rule for his fellow bouncers is “be nice until it’s time not to be nice”. Frank is pleased as punch.
But this isn’t an episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and not everyone in town is as pleased as Frank. Those aggrieved by Dalton’s successful makeover of the Deuce include not only the more raucous Western Australian water polo players, but also a couple of the angry Hagrids who lost their jobs. These sourpusses happen to be connected to Mr Wesley, a wealthy tycoon who’s got a stranglehold on the town, extorting the stuffing out of the local small businesses. He’s not cool with Dalton’s intervention and decides to make trouble.
At around this stage in the film I was quietly enjoying myself, innocently oblivious to what lay ahead. I thought I had a fair idea. Dalton and Wesley were going to bump heads until ultimately Dalton’s peaceful warrior approach to life would win out. Wesley would probably be humiliated in front of a crowd and then be run out of town to let the good people of Jasper live their simple lives. The Double Deuce might win ‘Best Road House in Missouri’ and Dalton would of course get to keep the girl.
So, having prepared myself for that sunny albeit predictable chain of events, I’ll admit that I was slightly surprised when Dalton first tears a man’s throat out with his bare hands. Gee-zus. The Deuce may not win ‘Best Road House in Missouri’ after all.
And it’s all surprises from there.
I guess the key to understanding – and ‘appreciating’, lol – Road House is to constantly remind yourself that this is not Tom Cruise in Cocktail. This isn’t even Channing Tatum in Magic Mike. This is not another feel-good romdramedy about the plights of a good looking male just trying to make his way in America’s glitzy nightlife industry.
No, this is Patrick Fucking Swayze and he’ll kick your torso off if he wants to. And still look like a Swedish shampoo advertisement.
Yup, this is Swayze’s film and he does whatever the hell he wants to, most of which, incidentally, adds to the impression that he is a gigantic hero. Practice shirtless tai chi by the lake. Ok. Stitch own knife wounds. Why not. Obtain a degree in philosophy from NYU. Not really necessary to this film Patrick, but ok, we’ll drop it in as character background.
There are other scenes in Road House where you get the sense that Swayze simply doesn’t want to do anything at all because it would mean he’d have to break out of a very carefully arranged pose.
Leaning against the loft door looking wistfully over the lake.
Sitting naked on the roof with a cigarette looking thoughtfully at the moon.
Standing at the window looking angrily though the glass… at something…
Reclining on the car bonnet in soft linen looking pensively at the sun.
Sunrise tai chi by the lake.
You could cut this movie up into stills and make a decade worth of fine calendars.
When Patrick does break pose long enough to speak, it’s generally worth the wait:
[When refusing local anaesthetic before an operation]: “Pain don’t hurt”.
And rain don’t rain.
I’m glad I watched Road House. If nothing else, it’s comforting to know that if there’s a Double Deuce in heaven, Patrick Swayze is up there tossing all the jerks out.