Plot: What’s it about?
Dalton (Patrick Swayze) is known as a cooler, the man who oversees a team of bouncers and directs them on how to handle various situations. He happens to be one of the best in the business, to the extent that troubled bars often call him in to settle the place down, then he heads off to do the same elsewhere. In this case, he is asked to work his magic and take control over the Double Deuce, a rowdy bar that has become laden with violence, theft, and disregard for duties, that unless something is done, it might have to be closed down. After some negotiations, Dalton agrees and ventures to Jasper, Missouri, where he rents a barn, buys a used car, and prepares to restore order to the Double Deuce. As soon as he arrives, his eyes begin to soak in all the events within the bar, so he is quick to make decisions that will improve the bar’s atmosphere. He cuts loose several bouncers and even catches the bartender skimming funds from the till, as well as other acts of misbehavior within the staff. But his actions soon become a problem for local kingpin Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), who plans to make sure Dalton is sent home with his tail between his legs, no matter what it takes to ensure that happens. Dalton isn’t willing to give in however, so a battle between the two rages and in the end, only one side will remain standing…
This is one of those movies that you know isn’t all that great, but damn, if it doesn’t always manage to be a blast to watch. No, Road House isn’t the kind of movie to win awards, garner critical acclaim, or even pull much box office, but it has found a sizable audience on cable television and of course, home video. I couldn’t count how many afternoons I spent watching this one on cable, as it simply entertains and offers a fun ride. Road House fails in terms of traditional dramatic efforts, but it delivers some rowdy, wild bar fights, decent romance, and a ton of memorable lines and humorous moments. And since Joel Silver produced this one, it has a solid budget and that enhances the atmosphere and locks in a few decent names. The fights are tons of fun, with all kinds of bottle-blasts, table-smashes, and hiding under the bar, just the kind of stuff you want from a movie like this, including a great band inside the Double Deuce. Never underestimate the importance of a bar band and with Jeff Healey on tap, complete with chainlink surrounding his stage, you know the tunes are terrific here.
He made a few movies in the 1980s that have remained popular, but one of Patrick Swayze’s final film from that decade is Road House. Of course, he’s better known for a certain movie in which he bumps & grinds with Ferris Bueller’s sister, but I happen to prefer his part here as his best work from the 80s. Swayze seems like the natural choice for the role and in truth, I can’t see anyone else being able to pull it off as well. Others could enhance the dramatic aspects of Road House, but they wouldn’t be as much fun to watch in the tough talkin’ and ass kickin’ sequences. Its great to watch Swayze rumble with the tough guys, as he fits right in with the backwoods types seen here and even has the start of a mullet to prove it. He is able to handle the romantic angle well and he manages to have his butt on screen yet again, but his finest moments comes when he gets to interact with the other bouncers. Other films with Swayze include Ghost, Red Dawn, Donnie Darko, Point Break, Letters From a Killer, and Dirty Dancing. The cast also includes Kelly Lynch (Cocktail, Drugstore Cowboy), Sam Elliot (We Were Soldiers, Tombstone), and Ben Gazzara (The Thomas Crown Affair, The Spanish Prisoner).
Video: How’s it look?
This is a movie I’ve seen on pretty much every format out there (though I don’t know if I ever had it or it made it to LaserDisc). Nevertheless, Vinegar Syndrome has done a great job bringing new life to this cult classic with its new 4K image. MGM released a Blu-ray of this several years ago and while it looked good, it’s clearly dated when compared to this new edition. A new 2K scan was done and while some of the enhancements weren’t that obvious, they are when compared to its predecessor. Thankfully, after all the formats this masterpiece of cinema has graced, I’d say it’s done right. Colors seem a bit more balanced, detail has been improved and thing just seem…better (I was channeling my inner Dalton there). If it’s the most definitive version of Road House you were looking for – you’ve come to the right place.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Also improved is the new DTS HD Master Audio mix that’s heads and tails better than the 2009 MGM Blu-ray. The entire track seems smoother, any distortion or “pops” have been left out in the cold. Vocals seem a bit more pure and rich. Granted this might not be the best movie for dialogue unless you’re a big fan of lines like “Pain don’t hurt.” (and let’s face it, who isn’t?). Channel separation is a bit more detailed as well, I felt that there were some sequences that seemed like they had more action in them. Granted the helicopter scene sounds good, and you’ll feel and hear every punch and kick the movie has to offer. While this will never test the limits of your system, it’s a major upgrade and that’s all we can ask for.
Supplements: What are the extras?
It’s always a treat when a cult classic gets some new supplements. In these days when studios just churn out the same old thing and put a new 4K disc in the mix, how delightful is it to see new features? Let’s dig in.
Disc One (4K)
- Audio Commentary – Director Rowdy Harrington’s solo track is pretty good. There are some dead spaces here and there, but by and large it’s full of little tidbits about the shoot, casting and some of the stunts. Admittedly I’d not planned to listen to this right out of the box, but I was pretty impressed.
- Audio Commentary – Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier (you might know Kevin Smith as “Silent Bob” from his films) provide a fairly entertaining and raunchy track. These guys love the film, as well they should, and it’s a great thing that this one was included on this set.
Disc Two (Blu-ray)
- Audio Commentary – Same as above.
- Audio Commentary – Same as above.
- Henchman #2 – Interview with Anthony De Longis – It’s exactly that. I had to look pretty far down into IMDb’s cast and crew section, but he’s there and he spends nearly 30 minutes reminiscing about the film.
- I Did It My Way – Interview with Charlie Picerni – Along the same lines is an interview with Second Unit Director/Stunt Coordinator Charlie Picerni who also seems to have some fond memories of his work on the movie.
- Blonde Ambitions – Interview with Laura Lee Kasten – Digging further into the cast we have an interview with Laura Lee Kasten who played “Nurse” in the movie. I can’t even place where or what scene she’s in, but somehow they found her and interviewed her for this segment.
- Fightin’ Man – Interview with Roger Hewlett – Going back to characters in the movie that actually have a name, we find a new sit down with actor Roger Hewlett who played “Younger” in the movie. He, like the others on this disc, recounts his time on the project.
- Ain’t Nothing Gonna Kill Me But Me – Interview with Travis McKenna – Lastly we meet up with actor Travis McKenna who played “Jack” in the film. His comments are…interesting, to say the least.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Still Gallery
Disc Three (Blu-ray) – If you own the Shout!Factory edition from 2016, this is the second disc of that set.
- “I Thought You’d Be Bigger”: The Making of Road House: For all of the standard “Making of…” featurettes out there, this is how it’s done. Running just a tad over an hour, this has pretty much everything a fan of the film could want. It covers the entire shoot, casting and everything in between. It’s a Road House fan’s dream come true.
- A Conversation With Director Rowdy Herrington: This interview with Director Rowdy Herrington is pretty insightful. He talks of his meeting with the stars and producer of the film (Joel Silver) and how get got into directing to begin with.
- “Pain Don’t Hurt”: The Stunts of Road House: No, the actors did’t do everything you see in the film. This covers all of the stunt work in the film and good lord – there was a lot of it.
- “Pretty Good For A Blind White Boy”: The Music of Road House: We get a look at Jeff Healey and his music for the film.
- Remembering Patrick Swayze: As the title suggests, we get a lot of remembrances of the actor.
- On The Road House: This one was actually taken from an earlier DVD, so it’s a bit more “vintage” than the others, still it’s nice to have.
- What Would Dalton Do?: Some real life “coolers” are interviewed as they share some of their war stories.
- On The Set: Ever wanted to see just a bit more of that monster truck scene? Your prayers have been answered.
- Patrick Swayze Profile: A brief interview with Patrick Swayze.
- Select Sound Bites: Pretty much as the title suggests, just some lines from the film.
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer: The original theatrical trailer is included.
The Bottom Line
If you’re around my age, Road House was a staple of your teen years (ok, maybe not all of your teen years, but you get the idea). With Patrick Swayze’s passing, this movie is only heightened in its status as a cult classic. Vinegar Syndrome has done an amazing job with this movie and it’s a testament that when properly motivated, ay studio can dig up material, spend a little money and make an amazing home video release. And the deal is only sweetened with this offering with an upgraded picture and several new features!