MOVIE

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

anymore.

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

simply ludicrous.

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.