Road House (1989)

by | Apr 4, 2024 | 1980s, Action, Featured Films, Film Reviews, Thriller | 0 comments

Don’t Mess With Dalton: A Look Back at Road House (1989)


Release date: 19 May 1989 (USA)
Genre: Action/Thriller
Director: Rowdy Herrington
Cinematographer: Dean Cundey
Budget: $15 million USD
Box office: $61.6 million USD


“I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice.” – James Dalton (played by Patrick Swayze)


4 MIN Read Time


Remember those cheesy action flicks of the 80s that somehow became cult classics? “Road House” (1989), directed by Rowdy Herrington (not David Ayer), falls squarely in that category. This action-comedy throws Patrick Swayze into the role of Dalton, a zen-like bouncer with a mysterious past who cleans up a roughneck bar in the Ozarks. While the plot itself is pure popcorn entertainment, there’s more to “Road House” than meets the eye.


A Story That Punches You in the Face (Literally)

Let’s be honest, the plot of “Road House” is about as deep as a kiddie pool. Dalton rolls into town, cleans up the Double Deuce bar run by the benevolent (but slightly clueless) Doc (Red West), and tangles with the sadistic businessman Brad Wesley (Bennett Wheatley) who uses the bar as a front for his nefarious activities. What ensues is a glorious, over-the-top brawl-fest punctuated by montages of Dalton wooing the local doctor (Kelly Lynch) and training with an assortment of colourful characters.

However, the simplicity of the story allows the film to shine in other areas. The action sequences are a glorious ballet of flying fists and bone-crunching takedowns, choreographed by the legendary Pat Johnson (who also worked on films like “Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon”). The cheesy one-liners (“Pain don’t hurt”) have become ingrained in pop culture, and the overall tone is pure, unadulterated fun.


Filming Fun Facts: Bouncing Between Realities

While the film takes place in the fictional town of Jasper, Missouri, “Road House” was actually filmed in California. The Double Deuce itself is a real bar, the Fox and Hounds in Sonoma County, although the interior was extensively remodelled for the film.

There’s a fun little easter egg for eagle-eyed viewers: the martial arts school where Dalton trains is the same set used for Daniel LaRusso’s training in “The Karate Kid.”


A Cast of Tough Guys and Tougher Women

Swayze is perfectly cast as Dalton, radiating charisma and a quiet intensity that makes him a force to be reckoned with. He’s ably supported by a colourful cast of characters, including Sam Elliott as the grizzled bouncer Wade Garrett (who delivers, arguably, the film’s best line: “I don’t debate with drunks, son. Especially ones with sewer for brains!”). Kelly Lynch is charming as Dr. Elizabeth Clay, who holds her own against Dalton’s machismo.

The real scene-stealer, though, is Bennett Wheatley as the villainous Brad Wesley. He chews the scenery with a manic glee that’s both terrifying and hilarious.


Box Office Blues: A Cult Classic is Born

Despite its critical drubbing (reviews ranged from mediocre to scathing), “Road House” performed decently at the box office. However, it found its true audience on home video, becoming a staple of late-night movie marathons. The film’s cheesy charm, quotable lines, and over-the-top action sequences resonated with audiences, solidifying its place as a cult classic.


The Conclusion: A Timeless Throwback

“Road House” isn’t going to win any Oscars, but that’s not the point. It’s a fun, action-packed ride with a charismatic lead and a healthy dose of cheese. If you’re looking for a film that’ll have you quoting lines and cheering for the good guy to win, then “Road House” is the perfect pick. Just don’t underestimate the power of nice guys with questionable pasts and a talent for throwing punches.


My Rating: 8/10


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