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Bad action has rarely been so good
on December 28, 2003
Forget "Dirty Dancing": Patrick Swayze's career peaked in this and the similarly underrated "Point Break." It doesn't quite reach the stratospheric heights (or is it depths?) of Arnold Schwarzenegger's deservedly legendary "Commando," but "Road House" is still the stuff of which B-movie legend is made. Starring Swayze as the head bouncer at a rowdy Southern bar called the Double Deuce, "Road House" derives its appeal largely from the ingenious idea of having a bunch of rednecks for villains. You get to see Swayze's Dalton, perhaps the only Mercedes-driving, philosophy-majoring bouncer in history, take on a seemingly endless succession of slack-jawed inbred troglodytes as he tames the Double Deuce and ensures victory for truth, justice, and the American way.
The Double Deuce is one of the those bars where it seems half the patrons are on parole, but that doesn't stop them from throwing fists at the proverbial drop of a hat. I've always believed that bar fights held vast, untapped potential for the action genre, and this movie more than delivers the goods in that department. There are about five solid bar brawls in "Road House," with glass flying around, Dalton employing his martial-arts expertise against dimwitted thugs in tight jeans, and blind guitar whiz Jeff Healey providing some rock-solid background music. Suffice to say, if you're looking for a fair and dignified look at life in the South, you won't find it here. A trip to the Double Deuce promises to be as nasty and brutish as Hobbes's state of nature, and a lot more fun to watch.
And even for those who can think of nothing that beats Patrick Swayze as an action hero, it gets better: they got Sam Elliott, one of America's most underrated actors ever, to play Dalton's long-haired, hard-living friend Wade! With an unkempt white mane and that unmistakable Southern drawl, Wade dispenses plenty of rapier wit along with some ...-whippings before outliving his usefulness. You also get to see Ben Gazzara, slumming it as the snake-like villain Brad Wesley, somehow manage to maintain a semblance of dignity in a movie that seems committed to insulting your intelligence every chance it gets. And as Dalton's love interest, Kelly Lynch adds little in the way of plot advancement or dialogue, but she does provide some nice scenery... buying it.