I Love "Road House," Damn It
Okay, first up, pop culture writer and all-around genius Chuck Klosterman has already written quite eloquently about the 1989 Patrick Swayze movie “Road House,” but forgive me, I’ve got to get my turn.
Because I love “Road House,” damn it.
At first, as I started watching it on cable each time it turned up, I thought perhaps I was simply appreciating it on an ironic level. And I suppose it’s still true that there remains that college hipster inside of me who is watching “Road House” simply to laugh at the gratuitous sex scenes and violence and over-the-top dialogue (“I used to fuck guys like you in prison!”) plus our dearly beloved Patrick Swayze doing Tai Chi.
But this past week, I put “Road House” on my Netflix queue, and last night while Mr. Pop Rocks was out of town, I ordered a pizza, drank some beer, and sat back and watched this film with a huge smile on my face, going so far as to pause and rewind and watch my favorite scenes over and over.
Which is to say, I watched it in earnest.
Why? Well, for one thing, “Road House” is brilliant because its plot functions in an almost fairy tale setting. Are we really supposed to believe that there’s this crew of world-famous bouncers roaming the States, being hired by clubs in small towns in Missouri or wherever, demanding as much as $500 a night in cash (1989 dollars, mind you) to throw out hooligans? Are we honestly supposed to accept the fact that town bully Brad Wesley is just allowed to roam Jasper unchecked, collecting his money and running over car dealerships in his monster truck? Should we really be expected to buy Little Miss Vacant Kelly Lynch as a doctor? Yes, you’re supposed to accept all of this and more, and only by accepting it are you able to enjoy “Road House” on a deeper, more fantastical level.
It leaves you pondering stuff, too. Can you really rip out a man’s throat with your bare hands? How come Wade Garrett and everyone else thinks Dalton should skip town when he’s the only one with the balls to stand up to Wesley? How can a small club in Jasper, Missouri bring in such a huge party crowd? What is a power drinker? Would a man honestly accept $20 to allow another man to touch his wife’s breasts in public? (Shouldn’t he charge more, even in 1989 dollars?) For what reason does Wade Garrett call Patrick Swayze’s Dalton by the Spanish term of endearment “mijo” when neither one appears to know Spanish? Why would a man include information about his NYU philosophy degree in his medical records? And why, in the closing scene, is a naked Kelly Lynch swimming around in the pond while what appears to be the blind guitarist Jeff Healey sits by the shore? Granted, he’s blind, but still, that’s creepy.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is like all good movies, it leaves you thinking.
I can’t be sure when you cross the line between appreciating something on a purely ironic, it’s-so-bad-it’s-good level and move into the just fucking appreciating something level. But you know what? I’ll leave the head scratching question up to some American Studies major out there (or Chuck Klosterman). For now, I just know I love “Road House.” I watch it from start to finish five to six times a year, I never get bored of it, and I’m entertained the entire time I’m watching it. If that’s a crime, find the bouncer and throw me out of here, because I’m guilty as charged. – Jennifer Mathieu