It’s one of the best bad movies ever made, exclaims Road House star Kelly Lynch (speaking in the hour long Making-Of featurette on Shout! Factory’s newest addition to their Shout Select line of Blu-ray’s), and she is absolutely right. But there’s a method to the madness in Rowdy Herrington and Joel Silver’s brawl-fest Road House, one that all of the stars in the said Making-Of featurette acknowledge – they knew exactly what type of movie they were making; an over the top modern western that features outlandish characters and situations, but played completely serious.
Road House didn’t make a gigantic splash at the box office when it came out in 1989. Granted, it wasn’t a flop either, but it didn’t really find its audience until it hit cable TV and VHS in the early 90s – and it didn’t really hit my radar until 2006, when Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame made it one of the first films to be “riffed” on the then brand new Rifftrax (an online offshoot of MST3K). Now, typically, when you watch a movie for the first time on either MST3K or with an accompanied rifftrax, you generally wouldn’t watch the movie outside of that arena (unless the film in question is something like Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Avengers), but every once and a while a film breaks through and rises above the snide jokes and hilarity of the riffers and stands on its own merits. In Road House’s case, the sheer craziness of its premise, the sincerity of its characters, and the off the wall action on display was enough for me to accept the film for its strengths and celebrate it for its insanity.
And what’s not to love with what is perhaps Patrick Swayze’s finest hour? Just about every other scene in the film is a drag out, no holds barred bar room brawl with tables and beer bottles flying through the air and stunt men tossing people around with reckless abandon. The other half? Some of the funniest one liners you’re apt to hear from an action film, including the running gag “I thought you’d be bigger…” and everyone’s favorite piece of philosophy, ”Pain don’t hurt”.
But of course, at the center of the action and the gloriously cheesy one liners is Patrick Swayze, hot off his success in Dirty Dancing and only a year away from hitting it huge with Ghost. You really have to hand it to the man for giving it his all in a film that any other actor may play tongue in cheek. The character of Dalton is inherently silly; a former philosophy student who works as “one of the best bouncers in the business” and who is apparently so famous that every bartender and waitress around has heard of him. He even manages to move in right across the river from who will become his nemesis in the film. Again, all of this is patently ridiculous, but Swayze manages to sell it with ease, whether it’s chuckling quietly to himself as he discovers his destroyed and vandalized car outside of the Double Deuce or as he calmly stitches his arm up after sustaining a knife wound that he seemingly barely noticed happen.
If you’re unfamiliar with Road House, or have avoided it thinking it was just stupid trash that CMT routinely plays on an endless cycle, then I would highly suggest giving this film a chance. Yes, it’s dumb and cheesy as hell, but it’s by design, and it features a young Patrick Swayze at the top of his game, anchored by some truly excellent and well-choreographed fight scenes, along with a slew of memorable and laugh out loud one liners.
Did I mention that Sam Elliot is in this movie and plays the wise old mentor? If not, that alone should be reason enough for you to stop reading this review for a moment, and just buy Road House. I promise you, the Dude would abide.
THE VIDEO – 9/10
Shot by legendary Director of Photography Dean Cundey (Halloween, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park), Road House has never looked better. Sourced from a brand new 2K transfer of the interpositive (supervised by Cundey himself) all of the neon lit interiors of the Double Deuce shine with spectacular clarity. Flesh tones are accurate and grain is present and offers hefty amounts of detail heretofore unseen on the film’s previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. Some may complain about some scenes exhibiting some softness, but this is just Dean Cundey’s style of shooting, and is in no way representative of a bad transfer. All in all, another great transfer from Shout! Factory, and one that bodes well for its emerging new label, Shout Select.
THE AUDIO – 8/10
As usual Shout! Factory provides both DTS-HD MA 2.0 and 5.1 soundtracks to accompany Road House, and the results are what I’ve come to expect from the label – well balanced and well mixed tracks. Nothing extraordinary, mind you, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with either track. Both offer good separation, there’s activity in the rears (especially during the fight scenes in the Double Deuce), and the music, whether it be the featured songs or the score from 80s action composer Michael Kamen, sounds excellent. I would have liked to have had a bit more oomph from some of the bigger action set pieces (like Dalton’s car blowing up in the end), but what we get is more than adequate and at times even surprising (ex: when Brad Wesley fires his gun off in the bar to stop the fight – at first I thought an explosion had gone off, but it was actually just a hand gun).
THE SPECIAL FEATURES – 10/10
Audio Commentary with Director Rowdy Herrington
Audio Commentary with Road House fans Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
*“I Thought You’d Be Bigger”: The Making of Road House
*A Conversation with Director Rowdy Herrington
*“Pain Don’t Hurt”: The Stunts of Road House
*“Pretty Good for a Blind White Boy”: The Music of Road House
*Remembering Patrick Swayze
*On the Road House
*What Would Dalton Do?
*On the Set
*Patrick Swayze Profile
Yet another solid and informative batch of behind the scenes featurettes from Shout! Factory, headlined by the fantastic “I Thought You’d Be Bigger” Making Of. At just over an hour long, we get interviews with almost all of the principal actors, including most of the key members of the crew (director, fight coordinators, etc). If I had one complaint it’s the absence of Producer Joel Silver from the interviews (Silver, for those unaware, happens to be one of the more interesting and larger than life producers in Hollywood, especially during the late 80s). Nevertheless, there are some really interesting tidbits revealed here that I never knew about, in particular revolving around Keith David’s replacement bartender character, who is seen briefly in the background of one or two scenes, yet appears fairly early on in the opening credits, suggesting a bigger role than what we ultimately ended up seeing in the final product. Like the outstanding documentary for The Return of the Living Dead, everyone interviewed looks back on Road House with fond memories and funny stories, and it’s very clear that they appreciate the fans and the cult status the film has achieved in the years since its release.
Rounding out the rest of the new featurettes on Disc Two are extended interviews with Director Rowdy Herrington and the film’s stunt coordinator, as well as archival bonus features seen on the previous DVD and Blu-ray releases.
THE FINAL RATING – 9/10
For those waiting for a definitive Blu-ray release of Road House, look no further than Shout Select’s Collector’s Edition. Featuring a new 2K transfer (supervised by the film’s Director of Photography), two great DTS-HD audio tracks, and the usual horde of new and old special features you’ve come to expect from Shout! Factory, make this Blu-ray a no brainer for fans of the film and an outstanding first release for the new Shout Select line of releases.