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ROAD HOUSE
Special Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Patrick Swayze, Ben Gazzara, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliott
Director: Rowdy Herrington
Audio: Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 114 Minutes
Release Date: July 18, 2006

“PREPARE TO DIE!”

“You are such an assh**e!”

Film ***1/2 (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.

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.

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 Road House 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.

Not big deal, cause Dalton always has extra spare tires on hand.

Back to the movie: 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.

But the highpoint of Road House, and the scene I always look forward to whenever I watch it, is the fight between a shirtless Dalton (ladies, please try not to faint), and Wesley 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 ***1/2

MGM has delivered a most solid anamorphic presentation. The picture is consistently clean and crisply clear, give or take a minor instance of softness. But the picture is indeed a strong one given its age and the colors are handled in a most outstanding form.

Audio ***

For this re-release, I was kind of hoping for either a new 5.1 mix, or even a DTS track, but I forgot how good the 2.0 mix was on the first DVD release. The action scenes come through with the perfect bone crunchin/neck snapping impact that it should deliver. Both Jeff Healy’s music and Michael Kamen’s music score are heard tremendously well and dialogue delivery is as clear as a bell.

Features ***1/2

There’s no question that the legions of fans were waiting for a newly loaded release of the movie on DVD, especially since the first release had virtually nothing on it. This new Deluxe Edition features two commentary tracks; the first is with director Rowdy Herrington, the second is with filmmakers and Road House fans Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier, which is the funniest and single best commentary I’ve heard so far this year. 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. Also included is a trivia track and three featurettes; “On the Road House”, “What Would Dalton Do?” and a Sneak Peak at Road House 2.

Summary:

Yes indeed, Road House is the quintessential cheese classic, in addition to being a cult classic as well. And now this new Deluxe Edition disc serves an excellent reason to revisit this action campfest and to recapture the wise philosophy of the one they call Dalton.

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