Film: "Road House"
Stars: Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch and Sam Elliott
Theaters: Annex, Eastland, Eton Square and Cinema 8 (Broken
Arrow, Sand Springs) theaters
Rating: R (extreme violence, language, sexual content, nudity)
Quality:*(on a scale of zero to five stars)
They say they don't make those old town-taming Westerns
Instead, they make things like "Road House," a pale, closet
Western dressed up in modern garb.
But even to assume that the makers of this brutal movie
were aspiring to some tribute to Old West values is to give
them too much credit. What this movie is really all about
is Patrick Swayze. It's pure star vehicle stuff.
Swayze, coming off his amazing success in last year's "Dirty
Dancing," is apparently out to capitalize on his high hunk
quotent in this story about a dark, mysterious stranger
who comes to a modern-day Missouri town to clean up the
local honky tonk.
Swayze plays a character named Dalton, a living legend in
saloon circles. He's a high-priced bouncer who's capable
of "cooling" any explosive situation. Or, if that fails,
of beating the stuffing out of whole gangs of bar rowdies.
But Dalton's more than a macho, battle-scarred fighter.
He's a thinker (with a philosophy degree from New York University,
no less). He reads poetry and meditates and practices a
passive form of Eastern martial arts. He even doctors up
his own wounds (a la Rambo).
He's sort of a Zen bouncer. "Pain doesn't hurt," is one
of his puzzling pronouncements.
Dalton hates violence. But if violence comes calling, he's
ready to play.
Now, if you buy that load of bilge, you'll probably buy
this whole movie.
But if Dalton sounds like a silly, contrived character based
on some screenwriter's limited interpretation of the classic
Western hero (in this case, that of David Lee Henry and
Hilary Henkin), then you'll find "Road House" about as
appealing as a hangover.
In any case, the story starts as Dalton is hired by a Missouri
businessman to come to town to clean up a honky-tonk country
and Western bar known as the Double Deuce. It seems the
road house has become a rowdy biker hangout, and the owner
wants to make it safe for decent folk.
So Dalton shows up and quickly runs afoul of the psychotic
local kingpin. He's Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), a dapper,
evil millionaire who owns practically everything in town,
except the Double Deuce and a few small businesses from
which he extorts protection money.
Once it sets up this basic conflict - Dalton and his good-guy
bouncers against Wesley and his repulsive goons - the story
moves inevitably to a bloody showdown.
Oh, director Rowdy Herrington wedges in lots of superfluous
business to jazz the story up - Dalton carries around a
deep, dark secret about a killing in Memphis, Dalton meets
and falls in love with a gentle lady doctor (Kelly Lynch),
Dalton's grizzled old mentor (grizzled old Sam Elliott)
rides into town to lend a hand.
But it all comes down to the big showdown. And the muscular,
athletic Swayze in a fight to the death with Gazzara is
Herrington, who showed better stuff in last year's "Jack's
Back," is not well served by this material. The story is
cliche-ridden and frayed with loose ends. For his part,
the director does nothing to soften the story's cynicism
or its brutally sexist attitudes.
"This movie will probably draw business based on Swayze's
presence alone. The cameras dutifully display the actor's assets
(including the requisite bare behind shot) in all their glory.
But, in the final analysis, "Road House" is a lowlife dive.
It's pointless, mean-spiritede, excessively violent and, perhaps
worst of all, just plain dumb.