In the late 1980s action films were the main consumption for the male demographic. Before comic book films and endless big-budget, 3D fantasy battles cornered the market, these shots of pure testosterone-fuelled adrenaline were king. Whether it Arnie in The Terminator, or Sly Stallone in Rambo, large muscle-bound actors saw huge box office returns simply for driving cars fast, shooting people and blowing up buildings, making sure to callously deliver a cheesy one-liner as they fallen foe gurgled for his last breath. There was no need for a colourful skin-tight outfits, monstrous enemies or spectacular visual effects. It was a simpler time.
Nestled neatly in among these behemoths of action, stood an average-sized man with magnificently coiffured hair. Not too tall, not too muscular, but just right. His name was Patrick Swayze and he was every woman’s fantasy. In 1989, riding a wave of success from the unfeasibly popular Dirty Dancing, but two years away from career highlights Point Break and Ghost, he chose to throw his hat into the action ring with a film called Road House.
The setup to Road House was simple, he was one of the top two ˜coolers’ in America. Now by cooler, I don’t mean someone hired to stop winning streaks in casinos, but rather a head bouncer at particularly mean and nasty bars. Road House sees Swayze’s Dalton hired to be the cooler at a particularly vicious and violent bar called the Double Deuces, which brings him into direct conflict with the mob-boss-by-any-other-name Brad Westley (Ben Gazzara).
Road House is typical action film gold, with Dalton dolling out pseudo-Eastern influenced philosophy while simultaneously threatening to beat up everyone and rip out their throats. It’s manly to the point of being homo-erotic and it knows it too. Road House never stops giving the audience plenty of nudity, hulking hairy men sweating and bleeding and a some big explosions. There’s even time for a slightly out-of-place chase scene.
The whole cast are in on the act from old-time cooler Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott) to Westly’s comedy sidekick Tinker. The dialogue, cheesy as an Italian pizza, is delivered with the sort of careless camp ease that would make Liberace blush. Dalton’s love interest, the unfeasibly wooden Kelly Lynch even gets in on the act, delivering her lines with absolutely zero emotion or poise, but nobody else seems to notice, or care.
While there are gaping plot-holes and unfeasible acts of brutality, Road House remains a slice of pure 1980s nostalgic gold.