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ROAD HOUSE
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Patrick Swayze, Ben Gazzara, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliott
Director: Rowdy Herrington
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, DTS HD 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Shout Factory
Features: See Review
Length: 114 Minutes
Release Date: September 6, 2016

Do you enjoy pain?”

Pain don’t hurt.”

Film **** (On the Cult/Cheese Scale)

As men, we sometimes wonder why women put up with certain movies. The films we’ve come to label as “chick flicks”, such as Steel Magnolias, Pretty Woman and The Notebook, seem to be the very kinds of movies that the women we know simply can’t live without. But there are certain kinds of films that us guys can’t live without, some of them happen to be the most ridiculously conceived of all time.

Reigning at the top of the list is Road House, the action junk cult classic from 1989 starring Patrick Swayze and a larger than life mullet. For me, it remains the standard for all future awesomely bad movies to live up to, in addition to being one of the most quotable flicks in existence. Whenever I’ve had a bad day, I pop in this trash classic and become a happy camper instantly.

When it was first released to theaters, the movie was a modest hit at the box office, but ended up one of the most critically reviled films of the year. To this day the mystery remains; did the people involved in the making of the movie know then that a classic piece of cinematic cheese was in the works or was it being played off as serious as a Shakespeare stage production? The actors on screen seem to be taking seriously. I guess we’ll never know.

All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected.”

Nonetheless, after becoming an even bigger hit with the male crowd in both home video and endless cable TV airings, Road House has soared to unbelievable heights and become a cherished cult film. Of course, it is a movie that is to be loved and admired for all the wrong reasons. If you and your friends ever need a film to create your own episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, believe me when I say there will never be a more better selection (coincidentally, MST3K host Mike Nelson ranked the movie no. 1 in his book, Mike Nelson’s Movie Megacheese).

The movie stars Swayze as Dalton, who’s known all over the place as the absolute best cooler (bouncer back-up) in the bar business. And that’s terrific news for Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe), owner of the Double Deuce club, because his establishment has been littered with the ugliest form of human trash. He needs someone to clean the place up. He offers Dalton the job, and he accepts on account that the place is run on his rules and his rules alone.

And Dalton’s not just a beefy bar cooler. He also has a degree in Philosophy. What cooler doesn’t have one? And he is somehow able to afford a luxurious Mercedes convertible. Again, what cooler doesn’t have one? And Dalton is very smart to have a back-up car to take to work since the patrons who get thrown out always end up trashing it.

No big deal, because Dalton always has extra spare tires on hand.

Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary.”

Cleaning up the Double Deuce is something of a challenge, but Dalton eats such challenges for breakfast. But as he cleans out the trash, matters seem to get a bit worse. It turns out the bar is located in a small town that is controlled by a sadistic menace known as Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), a crime boss whose got every angle of the town in his pocket. Mind you, the town only has about four establishments, including the Double Deuce, but let’s just assume that Wesley has done this to other towns, since he has clearly made enough money to own a mansion, which happens to have a trophy room filled with animals he would’ve had to kill at a zoo in order to collect.

But Dalton is not going to stand for it. And it will be easy for him to fight back. Why you ask? Because Dalton rents a home on a ranching spread which is located directly across the river from the villain’s residence. If I’m the screenwriter, and I have thrown in such a high level of writer’s convenience into a screenplay, I’m laughing my ass off at this point.

Along the way, the roundhouse kicking Dalton manages to romance a local doctor (Kelly Lynch) and bring in extra back up in the form of longtime friend, and fellow ass kicker Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott), who’s obviously the second best cooler in the bar business. But Wesley and his goons don’t stop with the terrorizing. When push comes to shove, Wesley will order a monster truck to ram through a car dealership and run over every car on the lot.

And three, be nice.”

But the high-point of Road House, and the scene I always look forward to whenever I watch it, is the fight between a shirt-less Dalton (ladies, please try not to faint), and Wesley’s right hand thug. It begins with an utter of three little words; PREPARE TO DIE. Has there ever been a movie with the balls to have that line included anywhere? And by that I mean a movie that isn’t set in the 18th century. This fight also ends with one of the most graphic finishes you will ever see, but for this movie…it’s most fitting.

Yes, this is perhaps the greatest bad movie that has ever been made. The reason I cherish it so much is because such movies, or accidents, rarely get made. If you want a good action movie, then this is what you want to see. If you want something that’s gonna make you laugh hysterically, this is the movie to see. And if Patrick Swayze with a mullet is the one thing that does it for you, again…this is the movie to see.

BONUS: Canadian blues rocker Jeff Healy plays the resident musical act at the Double Deuce. Keep watch of how many times his character notices something before anybody else…because Healy happens to be blind!

Video ****

Dalton, you oughta check this out. Looks like Wesley wants to put a little something DOWN on a new car.”

Having seen the DVD more times than I want to admit, I can tell you that the overall quality in the video area on this brand new release from Shout Factory is without question the finest presentation I’ve ever seen of this classic. The 1080p has made this trash classic look more livelier than ever, in addition to a whole new 2k restoration supervised by cinematographer Dean Cundey. Colors are the strongest they’ve ever been, as they play a big part in making the picture look good as new. Overall, it adds up to a kind of grand slam treatment that only HD could bring to a 27 year old flick.

Audio ****

Give me the biggest guy in the world, you smash his knee, he’ll drop like a stone.”

Both the 5.1 and 2.0 DTS HD tracks have been ported over from the previous MGM Blu-ray release. Never before has a lossless audio mix illustrated such a significant difference, the movie was only offered in a Dolby Surround mix on the DVD release. The fight scenes sound more bone-crunching than ever and Michael Kamen’s intense music score (which basically sounds like leftovers from his Die Hard score) has never sounded more riveting. But I can’t leave out the bar music provided by The Jeff Healy Band, which sounds nothing short of a band playing live in your living room. And every memorable line of dialogue (or should I mention every line in this Oscar-worthy screenplay?) is heard in its most superior form yet.

Features ****

The name is DALTON.”

Shout Factory is unquestionably the best Blu-ray studio to handle such a flick like this, and they illustrate that beautifully with a glorious 2-Disc Blu-ray release packaged with a listing of extras no roundhouse kick could destroy...unless it was Dalton’s. On Disc One, we get the two commentary tracks from the previous DVD release; one with director Rowdy Herrington, and one with director Kevin Smith and his producing partner Scott Mosier, which remains one of the best and most hilarious commentaries in existence. How funny is the commentary? If you’re familiar with those funny Chuck Norris facts, get ready for some Dalton facts, because Smith and Mosier have an endless list of them to share.

On Disc Two, we get a spectacular hour plus documentary titled “I Thought You’d Be Bigger: The Making of Road House”, which includes multiple interviews with various cast and crew members and covers all kinds of ground from the stunts to the music to the oh so memorable one liners. Also included is a new conversation with director Rowdy Herrington, additional featurettes “Pain Don’t Hurt: The Stunts of Road House”, “Pretty Good For a Blind White Boy: The Music of Road House (focusing mainly on Jeff Healy’s contribution to the soundtrack) and “Remembering Patrick Swayze”. Rounding out the new extras is archival On the Set footage, a Patrick Swayze profile/interview, as well as selected soundbites, a Photo Gallery and Theatrical Trailer. Lastly, we get the two featurettes ported over from the previous DVD release; “On the Road House” and “What Would Dalton Do?”.

Summary:

Road House is and always will be the quintessential cheese classic, in addition to being one of the most re-watchable movies ever made. The movie is more badass than ever, thanks to the all around excellent Blu-ray release from Shout Factory, and serves as a truly excellent reason to revisit this action campfest and to also recapture the wise philosophy of the one they call Dalton!

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