I recently watched the 1989 Patrick Swayze film Road House. I fear that when I tell you I found the film incredible (and unbelievable, in every sense of the word) you’ll think I’m being facetious. Not so.
Road House doesn’t lend itself to a sober, literate analysis – how could it? This is a movie about renowned and sought-after bouncer (as in, the guy who tosses people out of a bar) who happens to hold a degree in philosophy from NYU. He waxes philosophical when he’s not tearing somebody’s throat out with his bare hands.
Still, it’s clear to me that there is some inspired filmmaking going on here. You could argue that the movie is one giant misstep, and that’s fine, but if you buy into its world the film plays perfectly and never deviates from its style or purpose. Which is?
In a word: gratification.
We see the bad guys driving down the street in one of those ridiculous monster trucks. Will we be given the pleasure of seeing that truck then crushing a row of smaller cars in a car lot? Of course.
As a climactic fight scene begins, we see characters sparring around a large, glass-topped coffee table. Is someone going to smash into it? Of course, and brilliantly so.
How could we be denied the sight of Kelly Lynch’s tits or Swayze’s ass? As an added commentary, we even get a female character staring and gasping at the sight of the latter, as if in acknowledgement that this is what some of us have paid to see.
Bottles are thrown, chairs are smashed, cars and buildings blow up real good.
And then comes the line that made my jaw drop: Jimmy (a bad guy) has Patrick Swayze in a brutal headlock. He sneers: “I used to fuck guys like you in prison!”
WHOA-HUH?!?! Yet even this line has a precedent in an earlier scene, when Jimmy first lays eyes on Swayze.
Road House is not unlike Paul Verhoeven’s wonderful American oddities Showgirls and Starship Troopers. As in those films, we’re not sure if what we’re watching is a bad film or a parody of certain types of bad films. Or maybe something that transcends parody and becomes pure, debased entertainment for entertainment’s sake.
At any rate, who really cares when the end product is so much fun?