Road House Movie Review

Mike Nelson, in his fantastic book of reviews of awful movies (Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese), calls Road House "the single finest American film. Certainly it stinks, but I believe the filmmakers meant it to, and succeeded grandly." Road House also made its way into Bad Movies We Love, Edward Marguiles and Stephen Rebello's fine rundown of the worst movies ever made.

As a movie lover, I feel it's important to see the clunkers so I can appreciate the classic stuff. Part of me felt incomplete for not seeing Rowdy Herrington's 1989 anti-classic. When the time came to review it -- so that watching the movie felt somewhat legitimate -- I jumped at the chance. The verdict: In terms of sheer awfulness, I think 13th Child, SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2, and House of the Dead beat it. Oh, sure, Road House is bad. It's just not awestruck bad.

The movie stars Patrick Swayze, white hot at the time from Dirty Dancing, as Dalton, a legendary bouncer brought in to clean up a rowdy bar just outside of Kansas City. How bad-ass is Dalton? He carries his medical file with him. He can kill a man with his bare hands. He can wear pleated pants and a puffy mullet and get away with it. True to his reputation, Dalton cleans up the infamous Double Deuce, but his firing of the bartender, angers the kid's uncle, the town's rich bully (Ben Gazzara). When Dalton begins dating hot doc Elizabeth Clay (Kelly Lynch), the bully's former flame, things get worse for Dalton, and the only solution is ass kicking. Lots and lots of ass kicking.

Usually, I have no problem with that, but Road House tries so hard to be macho that it becomes a parody of itself. Herrington and screenwriters David Lee Henry and Hilary Henkin (who later wrote Wag the Dog) forget that machismo isn't what you say; it's what you don't say. By overloading the script with such bon mots as "balls big enough to come into a dump truck," "well, I sure I ain't going to show you my dick," and the classic, "I used to fuck guys like you in prison," Road House becomes the gayest thing next to a gladiator movie. Constant shots of Swayze's toned body, which is on display more times than Lynch's, doesn't help.

Who was this movie made for? The answer: Guys (lots of fight scenes in the Double Deuce, which is apparently made out of balsa wood) and girls (Swayze's toned ass gets more screen time than Keith David). Creating a date movie with more testosterone is a questionable idea, and Herrington and Henry wind up creating something from the mind of John Waters or a testosterone-heavy Todd Solondz. Only it's not intentional or kitschy. Road House resembles the unruly patrons of the Double Deuce, full of testosterone, wobbly, and carrying about a ninth grade education. Consider this review an ass kicking, Dalton-style.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :


Road House Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: R, 1989


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