Road House (1989)

from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Roadhouse is a cinema classic and one of the most entertaining movies ever made. It is the White Trash Hamlet; the Redneck Romeo and Juliet; Macbeth with a Mullet; Timon of Athens, Georgia. If I have to go through the process to name my favorite movie, this certainly makes the short list. I would certainly rank it among my top 10 comedies. I doubt whether making a great comedy was the original intention, but as gamblers say, "The cards speak for themselves".

What's it all about?

A powerful landowner with a savage taste for hunting gets all his kicks from his domination of a small town and all its inhabitants. Ben Gazzara plays this part, and don't miss the scene where Gazzara sings. I think I can go out on a limb and say it's the best evil land baron singing in film history. (You want more musical moments? Sam Elliott also sings in this movie.)

Ben also ranks high in evil rockin' on his rockin' chair, just creakin' away in that evil way while he watches his neighbors at night. Now JFK, when he rocked, that was some good rockin', some downright saintly rockin'. An' when Grandpappy Amos rocked while lecturin' L'il Luke, that thar' was jes' rockin'. But when Ben does it - sheer evil. Of course, Ben justifies his evil behavior because there was nothing in the town until he came. He civilized it. His proof: "I brought the 7-Eleven here". Yup, that's the sure sign of Civilization with a capital "C", as documented by Sir Kenneth Clark. You can keep your sophisticated economies, your fey literature and fashions, your codified laws and individual freedoms, and your lame statues and fountains. Real civilizations have Slurpees.

Ben comes complete with all the movie evil accoutrements, like an evil paneled den full of animal heads - including herbiverous ruminants! Just thinking - how hard could it be to kill a lumbering herbivore? Even I can be called a big-game hunter in that league. In my own evil paneled den, I have the heads of dairy cows. Now that's good huntin'! I also enjoy hunting for koalas. They sometimes go for hours without muscle movement, so I don't have to waste any bullets on the little guys. In fact, you don't even have to kill 'em and stuff 'em. Just give them a little standing room behind the plaque, hook up a eucalyptus I.V., stick their heads through the opening - bingo - nobody will ever suspect they are still alive.

With the townspeople all terrified that any challenge to Gazzara will cause them to grace the wall in the evil paneled den, it's clear that somebody from the outside has to challenge Big Ben. The owner of the local bar just happens to know one guy who is tough enough - Dalton, the world's greatest bouncer. The bouncer is played by Patrick Swayze, who was then one of the hottest properties in filmdom after his success two years earlier in "Dirty Dancing".

He's not a typical bouncer:

  • He has a degree in Philosophy from NYU. His immersion in the highlights of human thought have given him the insight necessary to utter such lines as "Pain don't hurt". There will be a test on this later. My buds and I swaggered around for years, whenever we would see each other, and intoned "pain don't hurt". Some interesting questions for the philosophers amongst you: If pain don't hurt, what does? And why do they call it pain? I'll leave the answers up to you, because these "trees falling in an empty forest" questions always hurt my head. Although, interestingly enough, when my head hurts there can be no pain, because.... (Your answer here).
I told you there would be a test.
  • He wears expensive Armani clothing and drives a Mercedes. Being an itinerant and lonely bouncer cleaning up run-down Midwestern dives isn't that glamorous, but the pay must be sweet. No wonder he gave up his philosophy professorship.


There is a lot of nudity. The best known, of course, is the post-sex scene with Kelly Lynch, where she shows her breasts getting out of bed, drapes a sheet over her front, then walks to a balcony with her buns exposed to sit beside a naked Swayze.

Julie Michaels does a strip, and shows breasts. Cheryl Baker shows her bra, when her husband offers anyone with $20.00 the opportunity to "kiss her tits." One woman shows breasts in the storeroom having sex with Steve the bouncer. Several women show breasts at a party given by Gazzara, and several strippers are seen in G-strings in a club where Sam Elliott is working.

Swayze has a butt close-up in good light, is shirtless often, and does a very distant frontal in the final scene. Sam Elliott shows his pubic hair. Gary Hudson shows his buns and pubes just before Swayze fires him for messin' around on break.

To demonstrate his complete mastery of the nuances of ancient thought, at one point Swayze relieves a guy of his knife with a ... um ... a proven philosophical technique: the respected and time-honored kick in the nuts. I believe it was Confucius who once wrote that while the pen might be mightier than the sword, he would prefer to address his enemies not with witty epigrams from his quill, but with a swift kick in the privates from his pointed shoes.

My translation from Mandarin may be a bit inexact.

Another great feature of the movie: Swayze carries his complete medical records with him at all times. That assures proper treatment when he goes to the emergency room, which he does regularly, possibly to get wounds treated, or sometimes just to pick up chicks.

Bart Simpson once said, "I've based my life on his teachings", in reference to his own guru, Krusty the Klown. As Bart is to Krusty, so am I to Dalton, Patrick Swayze's character in Road House. I have truly based my life on his teachings, and am proud of it.

Did I mention that there is no law enforcement of any kind in this town? A sheriff shows up in the last minute to ask "what's goin' on", and everyone says they "din't see nuthin'".

Ah, the back-up cast! Just thinking of it makes me smile. Make room for wrestler Terry Funk and Kevin Tighe. Tighe plays a guy named Tilghman, presumably so he won't have to learn any new consonants.

Not many movies are so bad they are good. Most bad movies are bad because they are boring. But this one is not boring at all. Never. In fact, "Road House" is one of the most entertaining movies I've ever seen. It is absolutely worth watching, and has a great rock 'n roll score, some of which is not sung by Ben Gazzara or Sam Elliott. The soundtrack even includes the "Identical Cousins" song from the Patty Duke Show!

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen anamorphic 2.35:1 and a full screen version, but no meaningful features.

I strongly suggest that you watch it under the influence of mood-altering substances and in the company of like-minded goofballs. But bottom line - ya gotta see it.

I have to say that the DVD is a little disappointing, even though it has two beautifully transferred versions of the film. I was hoping for about a 5-disc set with deleted scenes and multiple commentary tracks and "making of" featurettes up the patoot.

The Critics Vote

  • Consensus: about two and a half stars. Roger Ebert 2.5/4, BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary: 6.2 out of 10. This is a truly entertaining movie, as much fun as Plan 9, in its own loopy way. I gave it a 10.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop awards it a C+ and seriously considered an A. "How can you not like this movie? Probably the most consistent non-stop laughs of any movie besides Blazing Saddles and Airplane!"

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