Road House is macaroni and cheese for a lot of movie goers that are over 27 years of age. Released in 1989, the movie chronicles the life of James Dalton (Patrick Swayze, Ghost), a “cooler” at a local bar, who is offered a huge sum of money to help a bar owner named Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe, Mumford) get his place called the “Double Deuce” back on its feet. A cooler for lack of a better explanation is a bouncer who helps diffuse situations before they blow up into brawls.
When Dalton gets to the bar, he sees the type of environment he’ll have to deal with. Even though his old friend (and house band singer) is there, he’s got drug dealing waitresses, statutory raping bouncers and money stealing bartenders. And apparently the few legitimate operating businesses in town appear to be owned by Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara, The Big Lebowski). Brad doesn’t hesitate to break the rules whenever necessary, even if it means that Dalton has to call in his mentor Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott, We Were Soldiers), while he continues romancing Dr. Elizabeth Clay (Kelly Lynch, Charlie’s Angels), who just happened to be Wesley’s woman for a little while.
I don’t know what it is about Road House that makes me want to put the remote control down during its endless TNT and TBS airings, but I like it. It’s certainly not the clothes, or the hair (although the mullets do inspire some high moments of nostalgia) or the potential homoerotic subtones that others seem to talk about, but its one of those films that you can file under “G” for guilty pleasure.
Swayze was at the height of the ole charm and charisma scales in the late ‘80s, to see him get together with a smoking hot blonde and recreate a sort of white-trash Enter the Dragon concept has always been a fun thing to watch. The ending may not be as perfect or ideal as others may have wanted, but considering what Wesley does to the town, it is only fitting I guess. While Rocky Horror Picture Show appeals to the Dungeons and Dragons friend in your neighborhood and Showgirls appeals to the seriously blatant gay guy in your neighborhood, Road House appeals to the guy in your neighborhood who still has the gun rack and the mullet, because Lord knows there are still a ton of them out there, and we have to eliminate them piece by painful piece.
Road House reappears to the world in 2.35:1 anamorphic goodness. The 80s color palette is reproduced well without any persistent problems, though there is some edge enhancement in the early scenes of the film. Or maybe that’s a subliminal attempt to deify the magic of Dalton and to a lesser extent, Swayze.
This is actually one of the better 2 channel Dolby sound mixes that I’ve heard in some time. The scenes when Jeff Healey performs sound crystal clear, with some low end fidelity punches, and there’s even some surround effects in some scenes with cars and planes. For a 20 year old film, it’s a solid sound environment.
It’s clear that there was a lot of love and attention put into the complete and thorough treatment by Sony/MGM on this disc. Its extras aren’t really too detailed, but they paint a larger picture of fond remembrance more than anything else. Herrington provides a commentary track that provides some insider information on the film along with any sort of relevant production headaches, but more often than not, there are prolonged gaps of silence as he watches the film all over again. The second track is a tribute track with Clerks and View Askew gang members Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier. Those who are familiar with their commentaries know that they’re pretty funny, and this one is no exception. While they do have to scramble occasionally for trivia, to use the Chuck Norris factoids and apply them to Dalton is pretty hilarious.
Aside from that, the other extras are a trivia track that’s really nothing more than humorous tidbits done in “Pop Up Video” style. Good, but not great. After that is a retrospective look back at the film with new interviews from Swayze, Lynch, Healy and Herrington, among others, as they discuss the film, it’s legacy and the hair and fashion from the times. It’s a quick painless look at the production. “What Would Dalton Do?” is a compilation of interviews with several real-life bouncers and coolers as they talk about what they do, how they do it and what they did to get there. Wrapping things up is a look at Road House 2, because there’s nothing else you’d rather do with your time.
Some films get a Special Edition double-dip and they’re usually disappointing. The producers of Road House knew that too many would be overkill, and not enough for their fanatical following of fans. Sony does it just right here, despite the sequel tie-in timing, and it’s a charming look back at the film with a decent picture to boot, ready for frat house re-enactment across the Midwest.