Road House (1989)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bouncer cleans up bar.

After opening up a bar in a small town outside of Kansas City Tilghman (Kevin Tighe) looks to find a bouncer strong enough to handle the tough clientele and yet smart enough to run the staff and stay out of harm. He turns to Dalton (Patrick Swayze) whose reputation meets his standards. Dalton wastes no time in cleaning up the bar and making it profitable, but when the town bully who is a rich and unscrupulous businessman name Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara) wants in on the action things become quite ugly quite quickly.

Had this film been done as a parody of all those macho 80’s action flicks this thing could’ve been brilliant as the over-the-top ingredients are already there, but instead it takes itself seriously and ends up being unintentionally funny. Everything gets played up to the extreme. The characterizations are broad while the story elements are predictable and formulaic. Even the fight sequences are stale and tiring although the scene where Wesley has a monster truck crash through a car dealership and crush all the vehicles isn’t bad.

The dopey script is filled with one implausible plot point or cliché after another. I found it hard to believe why Dalton, who makes $500 dollars a night and demands $5,000 upfront, would have to settle for an upper loft of a horse barn for his living quarters, which is too conveniently located across the pond from Wesley’s mansion. Strippers at a small town bar isn’t realistic nor is having a hot babe clientele who are provocatively dressed and looking more in tune for a posh nightclub in some hip cosmopolitan city.

Swayze is dull in the lead and his stoic ‘manliness’ comes off as boring. Sam Elliot who shows up later as one of Dalton’s pals from the past would’ve made the movie much more interesting had he been the star and about 20 years younger. He has a few great lines including the one that he says as he enjoys the derriere of Dalton’s girlfriend as she walks away “That girl has way too many brains to have an ass like that.”

Red West who made a career working as a stunt double makes for an affable everyman playing a shop owner who Dalton befriends. Kelly Lynch is gorgeous as Dalton’s girlfriend and I found her sex scenes with him and brief nudity amusing since she later went on to play the upset mother of a teen porn addict in the infamous Lifetime movie ‘Cyber Seduction’.

Spoiler Alert!

My favorite part was the ending when several of the townspeople get together and take turns shooting at Wesely before ultimately killing him, which is clearly inspired by the real life event that like in the movie occurred in a small town outside of Kansas City. The town was Skidmore, Missouri and on the afternoon of July 10, 1981 the townspeople upset with decades of violence from the town bully named Ken McElroy got together in the main street of town and shot and killed him as he sat in the cab of his pickup and then just like in the movie covered up for each other, so nobody was arrested. The town, which sits in the far reaches of Nodaway county as had a few more strange occurrences since then including a bizarre 2001 disappearance of an 20-year-old who literally vanished into thin air when he went outside to put some jumper cables into a shed and the 2004 killing of a pregnant woman who had her fetus cut out of her womb. I traveled to the place in 2007, but fortunately was able to get through it without incident.

End of Spoiler Warning!

Main street Skidmore, Missouri where the shooting took place on July 10, 1981. Where the white car is parked is roughly where Ken McElroy's pickup was when he was shot. Photo taken by me in 2007.

Main street Skidmore, Missouri where the shooting took place on July 10, 1981. Where the white car is parked is roughly where Ken McElroy’s pickup was when he was shot. Photo taken by me in 2007.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 19, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Rated R

Director: Rowdy Herrington

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

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