Friday, February 12, 2010

“Pain don’t hurt.”

Sometimes, all you really need is a big, dumb action movie with plenty of fight scenes and explosions wrapped around a fairly simple plot. 1989’s Road House (Not to be confused with Road House (1928), Road House (1934) and Road House (1948), none of which I’ve seen) claims to deliver those things.

You know, for Valentine's Day.

So there’s this bar in Missouri, the Double Deuce, and the owner wants to clean it up so he can get a nicer quality of clientele than the bikers, rednecks and riff-raff currently infesting it. He hires the services of a man known only as Dalton, famous across the country for being the best cooler (head bouncer) in the world. So Dalton comes to town, starts cleaning up the joint and finds the local, well, I guess “crime boss” is close enough, doesn’t appreciate his actions. Things spiral into a morass of chaos from there.

Dalton: The late Patrick Swayze is one hell of a badass in this movie. He’s a wandering cooler who’s got a philosophy degree and his key rule is to “be nice.” Doesn’t stop him from kicking ass six ways from Sunday when the need arises. The uncontested badass of the film.

Elizabeth “Doc” Clay: Kelly Lynch is the abnormally hot local doctor that meets Dalton the first time he needs patching up and becomes fascinated by him. She’s also got some history with Brad Wesley, so you just know that triangle’s going to explode.

Wade Garrett: Sam Elliot is pretty much Dalton’s Obi-Wan in the Cooler business. And he is indeed an awesome mentor figure for Dalton, spouting some great one-liners and being the second badass of the film.

Brad Wesley: Ben Gazzara (Jackie Treehorn himself) is the Villain of the movie, and its insane. So he owns the local booze distributing company, and somehow he’s managed to essentially buy and bully his way into being the local crime lord and unofficial strongman of the town. I don’t know how, but he’s got an army of redneck thugs at his command. Regardless, when he’s first introduced, he’s just a jackass, but as the movie goes on, the layers get revealed to show a completely insane asshole. You really hate Brad by the end of the movie.

Jimmy: Marshall Teague is Brad’s top henchman, a real vicious guy who becomes more or less Dalton’s opposite number.

Cody: Jeff Healey (of the Jeff Healey Band) and his band are the house band of the Double Deuce, and a pal of Dalton’s from way back.

Directed by the appropriately named Rowdy Herrington, the film is an action movie that follows some of the conventions of a western where the drifting hero comes into town and starts to clean the place up, but somewhere along the way, it goes from a rather amusing but not particularly memorable action movie and jumps off the sanity ledge into a gloriously insane action movie as Dalton proves that he is able to do things that no human being can. I can’t even begin to describe the madness that this film achieves, but its fantastic.

David Lee Henry & Hilary Henkin take a lot of stock characters and twist things around by the end. Dalton is, essentially, a Buddhist monk, and the plot swings into the absurd by the end, but the combination of action and really funny dialog hold the plot together as it speeds along to its violent conclusion.

Original score by Michael Kamen, but it gets overshadowed by the hard rock and blues soundtrack, most of which are covers by the Jeff Healey Band (including, most appropriately, The Doors’ Road House Blues)

Honestly, I wasn’t ready for Road House. I don’t think you can be ready for Road House. The movie is a gloriously cheesy 80’s Action B Movie where the rule of awesome supersedes everything else. I wouldn’t call it “good” in the same way as, say Indiana Jones or even Die Hard, but its got a level of charm and audacity that puts it in a similar position as The Last Dragon. Road House is a gigantic dose of cinematic cheese, and I loved every minute of it, and recommend it with the caveat that it’s an unapologetic big dumb action movie.

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