Theatrical release poster.
|Directed by||Rowdy Herrington|
|Produced by||Joel Silver|
|Written by||David Lee Henry
Marshall R. Teague
|Music by||Michael Kamen
Willie Nile (co-composer)
|Editing by||John F. Link
Frank J. Urioste
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date(s)||May 19, 1989|
|Running time||114 minutes|
|Gross revenue||$30,050,028 (United States)|
|Followed by||Road House 2: Last Call|
Road House is a 1989 American action film directed by Rowdy Herrington and starring Patrick Swayze and Sam Elliott as bouncers at a seedy roadside bar who protect a small town in Missouri from a corrupt businessman. The film has gathered a cult following.
James Dalton (Swayze) is a professional "cooler" (i.e. specialized doorman, or bouncer) with a mysterious past who is enticed from his current job in New York City by club owner Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe) to take over security at his club/bar, the Double Deuce, in Jasper, Missouri. Upon arriving in Jasper, Dalton anticipates his notoriety among some of the local townsfolk and buys a 1965 Buick Riviera, filling the trunk with spare tires. These come in handy when local thugs repeatedly puncture the tires and vandalize the car. Searching for a place to stay, he eventually takes lodging at a local farm. Dalton is introduced to local business magnate (and next door neighbor) Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara). In the course of cleaning up the violent nightclub, Dalton dismisses several unruly and corrupt employees, including Pat McGurn (John Doe), the bartender and Wesley's nephew, and current cooler, Morgan (Terry Funk), whose belligerent demeanor causes more trouble than it solves.
After a scrape with Wesley's henchmen for refusing to re-hire Pat (caught skimming earlier), an injured Dalton admits himself to the local hospital, medical file in hand, where he meets and is treated by Dr. Elizabeth "Doc" Clay (Kelly Lynch) during which Dalton refuses pain-numbing medication and tells her "pain don't hurt". Doc and Dalton strike up a friendship which eventually blossoms into a romantic relationship. Later Dalton is informed by Cody (Jeff Healey), the leader of the house band, and an old friend of Dalton's, that Wesley "had a thing for Elizabeth Clay".
Wesley invites Dalton to his home in a seemingly innocent attempt to make peace, but he has an ulterior motive: Wesley would like Dalton to work for him once he extorts Tilghman's club. When Dalton declines, Wesley begins an assault on Dalton's friends, including interfering with liquor deliveries to the Double Deuce. Dalton's mentor, aging but legendary cooler Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott), arrives in town after a disconcerting phone call from Dalton and helps him defend a liquor shipment from Wesley's thugs. Garrett's reputation precedes him, for he is treated with reverence by his fellow bouncers and sticks around to support Dalton.
That evening, local automotive parts and supplies business owner (Doc's uncle) Red Webster's (Red West) store is destroyed by a fire after he refuses to give ground to Wesley's persistent extortion demands. Dalton, not wanting to exacerbate matters, allows Wesley and his men entrance to the club that night, along with the club regulars. Wesley coaxes his girlfriend, Denise (Julie Michaels), to perform a strip-tease while Cody plays a cover of Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man". Dalton removes Denise from the stage and chides Wesley for her behavior. In retaliation, Wesley calls for his right-hand man, Jimmy (Marshall Teague), a former convict and proficient martial artist. Jimmy instigates a fight, systematically disabling the bouncers one by one with a pool cue while Wesley's henchmen engage Dalton and Wade. Jimmy then turns his attention to Wade. Despite Wade's hand-to-hand combat prowess (it is later revealed that he trained Dalton), Jimmy gets the upper hand until Dalton intervenes, and the two have a brief but heated skirmish before Wesley calls a halt to the mêlée.
The next day, car dealership owner Pete Stroudenmire becomes Wesley's next victim when he too rebuffs Wesley. As a result, Wesley has one of his thugs, Gary Ketchum (Anthony De Longis), demolish the structure with his monster truck as Dalton and his friends look on with contempt. After the incident, Garrett tries to convince Dalton to consider the possible consequences of involving himself in the town's affairs and leave Jasper. However, Dalton is determined to stay. Their interaction reveals that Dalton considers Wade his most trusted confidant.
That night, Doc visits Dalton and also attempts to persuade him to leave. However, their conversation is interrupted by a massive explosion; Emmett's home has been fire-bombed. Dalton manages to rescue Emmett from the blaze before the house is completely destroyed. Relieved that Emmett has not been injured, Dalton overhears the engine of a dirt bike in the distance and observes Jimmy, who stops to laugh at the carnage, fleeing the scene. Dalton, furious and obviously having had enough of Wesley's strong-armed tactics, chases and jumps on Jimmy, knocking him from the bike. As the fight ensues, Jimmy professes his hate/love for Dalton by telling him "I used to fuck guys like you in prison". Dalton gets the upper hand and beats Jimmy. Jimmy takes out a concealed gun from his boot and tries to kill Dalton, but before he can shoot him Dalton kicks the gun off his hand, rips out Jimmy's throat, and kicks him into the river. Doc tries to revive Jimmy but realizing the futility of it, departs, disgusted by what she has just witnessed.
Returning to the club the next day, Dalton receives an ominous call from Wesley, seeking revenge for Jimmy's death. During the conversation, Wesley asks Dalton to make a shocking choice: he must decide whether Wade or Elizabeth will be killed. Wesley ultimately decides by the flip of coin but does not reveal the outcome. Suddenly, Wade stumbles into the building, severely beaten. Wade, after Dalton helps him to the bar, tells Dalton three of Wesley's thugs jumped him, most likely the thug Wade fought before Jimmy in the bar fight, Mountain (Tiny Ron), a large member of Wesley's crew, and Morgan. After Dalton helps him to the bar, he unknowingly makes the fatal mistake of leaving Wade unattended while he goes to convince Elizabeth to leave town with him and his friend. Elizabeth, still repulsed by Dalton's actions the night before, adamantly refuses. Finally realizing he has no other recourse, Dalton returns to the Deuce to meet up with Wade and leave town. He soon discovers Wade has been brutally murdered. Pinned to the body, by way of a dagger, is a note reading "It was Tails." Fraught with grief, an enraged Dalton infiltrates Wesley's estate, where he overcomes Wesley's men, the five goons working for the rest of that day being Ketchum, Morgan, O'Connor, Tinker, and Pat. Ketchum, revealed to be Wade's killer, is killed by Dalton in the same manner as Wade, Pat being killed with the same knife. Dalton systematically takes down all of Wesley's men, killing Morgan and O'Connor. Tinkler is merely knocked unconscious by a giant stuffed polar bear falling on top of him.
Dalton eventually comes face-to-face with Wesley, and the two battle until Dalton restrains Wesley on a chair. Staring down at Wesley with his hand poised to rip Wesley's throat, he reflects about the error of his past violent ways. As he turns to walk away, Wesley seizes the opportunity to reach for a nearby gun. Clay arrives just in time to witness the men Wesley has persecuted over the years, Red, Emmet, Stroudenmire and Tighlman, come to Dalton's defense and shoot Wesley dead. They stash the weapons prior to the arrival of local law enforcement and proceed to corroborate each others' innocence: "I didn't see nothin'. You see anythin'?" When asked if he saw anything, Tinker-looking at a statue of three monkeys (hear, speak, see no evil)-sheepishly states "a polar bear fell on me", inducing stifled laughter. The movie then concludes with a shot of Dalton jumping into a local swimming hole to share a romantic skinny-dip with Doc Clay.
The soundtrack for Road House featured the late Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey, whose band was featured in the film as the house band for the Double Deuce. Cruzados were the band in the opening credits, contributed three songs to the film that never made the soundtrack. The film's score was composed by Michael Kamen.
A sequel, Road House 2: Last Call, was released directly to DVD in July 2006. Set many years later and telling the story of Dalton's adult son, it featured no one from the original cast and only a few references to Dalton (who was reportedly shot dead before the movie took place). The sequel revealed that Dalton's first name was James (which was not mentioned in the original movie). At the same time Road House 2 was released, the original film was reissued in a deluxe edition featuring, among other features, separate audio commentary tracks by director Rowdy Herrington, Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier, which the duo had expressed an interest in during the introduction of the tenth anniversary Clerks DVD.
In 2003 an off-Broadway musical production of Road House was staged as a campy comedy by Timothy Haskell, as seen by its full title of Road House: The Stage Version Of The Cinema Classic That Starred Patrick Swayze, Except This One Stars Taimak From The 80’s Cult Classic “The Last Dragon” Wearing A Blonde Mullet Wig. Road House has been parodied by Michael J. Nelson as the inaugural track for Nelson's Rifftrax commentary service. In his book, Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese, Nelson ironically declares Road House "the single finest American film".
On Mystery Science Theater 3000 (for which Michael J. Nelson was head writer), Road House was frequently cited as a favorite film of the characters, especially Crow T. Robot. In Episode 321, the film is referenced when Joel Robinson and the Bots sing the song "Let's Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas." Swayze reportedly found the tribute quite amusing.
In 2004, WFMU DJ (and Monk writer/producer) Tom Scharpling performed a live, one-man performance of the entire film on his radio program, The Best Show on WFMU. Listeners were encouraged to buy or rent the Road House DVD, and play the movie with the sound off, in synchronization with Scharpling's live radio performance. The performance contained many humorous re-interpretations of the script, such as continually referring to Brad Wesley by Gazzara's actual name, as well as the substitution of the film's original soundtrack with music from '80s synth-pop band Bronski Beat, Pavement, The Alarm, The Smiths, Wilco, Nena, Let's Active, The Misfits, Belle and Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand and the '90s Canadian pop-punk band, Cub.
The Family Guy 2009 episode "Brian's Got a Brand New Bag" has Peter Griffin buying a copy of Road House and deciding to imitate the film by kicking everyone and everything, it also imitates Swayze's movie Ghost by having Joe being taken away by Demons; the episode was dedicated to the memory of Swayze, airing two months after his death. Peter's "Road House" catchphrase from this episode is also used in the episode "Business Guy".