Dalton (Patrick Swayze) is a scholar with a Ph.D in philosophy, but
rather than use his teachings in a University, he's a "cooler"- a bouncer
who can coolly break up fights in the rowdiest of bars. A gun for hire, he is
called upon by Frank Tillman (Kevin Tighe) to work for him addressing the seemly constant brutal turmoil at the
Double Deuce, a honky tonk dive of an establishment "where they sweep the eyeballs off the floor at closing time" that Tillman owns in Jasper, Missouri. Dalton
comes in and immediately establishes his own methods with the other hired
help in turning the situation around, firing those who either don't have the
proper temperament for the trade or the ones who are part of the problem
rather than the solution. In a fight at the bar Dalton takes a knife wound and is tended to by
Doc Clay (Kelly Lynch), a strikingly gorgeous, learned and peaceful woman who is
immediately attracted to this paradox of a man. She just happens to be a
former girlfriend of the baddest influence on the Jasper scene, Brad Wesley
(Ben Gazzara) who owns half the town and is strong-arming those who
own the businesses he doesn't. Wesley sees early on that Dalton's heroic
doings at the Double Deuce could be a threat to his little empire, so he
goes about the task of getting rid of him by any means that become
necessary. Along the way Dalton's own bouncer guru Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott)
comes to town to double team the troubles that Dalton is finding are worse
than he had imagined, and seemingly more than he can handle alone. What ensues is- what else?- a life or death struggle between the good guys
and the bad guys with the little town of Jasper at stake.
Hey, I'm not going to lie about it. I often like "bad" movies and sometimes,
I even love 'em. This is one of those cases. Road House is a movie that has been in seemingly constant rotation on the cable
channels for years- probably making more than a few fans tire of seeing it-
with more than a few choice words and scenes pared away in order to make it
a bit less rowdy for general viewing. Its mindless, constantly over the top fun with a solid
recognizable cast, lots of punches being thrown, adequate T&A (in its uncut
form anyway) and stuff getting blown up.
The parallels of Road House to a Western are obvious through and through;
the entire town of Jasper is being run by a corrupt badman and as a result
his henchmen are terrorizing the townsfolk, prompting one of the business
owners to call in "the best" hired gun available. No sooner than Dalton
arrives, he gets to the job of cleaning up the worst rathole bar one could
find and in the process steps on the toes of the badman who rules Jasper by
firing Wesley's nephew. Upon finding out that Dalton isn't so easily
squashed, he escalates the manner to doing so, time and again coming up
short but definitely putting our hired gun 'sheriff' to the test in the
process. It isn't long before Dalton's own hero Wade (Sam Elliott- a
consummate cowboy figure of the last few decades with the film credentials
to prove it) comes along to stand by the side of his protege', the duo
unleashing all hell on the henchmen Wesley throws at them. Oh, these hired
guns aren't good guys through and through; they certainly have a profound
liking to violence in spite of any zen misgivings Dalton might claim, and
when the going gets really rough Wade is ready to let Wesley have the little
town to corrupt all he wants, chivalry be damned. In any case, Dalton is
forced to choose between saving his mentor or his girl and comes up short in
his effort to ensure they both survive, setting up a through and through
Western showdown with Dalton riding alone into the villains' hideout for one
whale of a shootout. In the end the good townsfolk themselves come to the aid
of their 'sheriff', standing up to the badman who has been extorting and
pillaging their little town for far too long. For a movie with no horses
there sure are alot of cowboys on the screen.
Swayze is an interesting actor; an incredibly athletic, graceful man who
excelled in dance, gymnastics and was even awarded a college football
scholarship, he ultimately turned to an acting career as a result of
recurring knee problems. His choices of movies are known to be erratic; he
gained heartthrob status in Dirty Dancing, yet seemed to choose films that
run the gamut from action-adventure to comedy to more artistic drama.
Watching him in a film such as Road House or Steel Dawn you get the
impression that his dedication to zen physical and mental training is
genuine, much in the way Wesley Snipes has came across in his acting career.
While a bit on the small side, I've always thought he was very plausible in
the action film genre with his quiet, stoic manner and his lithe, graceful
physique. He's definitely the right man to play Dalton.
Many who read this review will be chiefly concerned with what differences there are between the barebones disc that has been on the market for a few years and this one. Whereas the aspect ratio for the old edition is listed as being 16x9 widescreen, the deluxe edition here is 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, remastered in high definition. How do they compare? Frankly, I've never had a problem with the barebones offering and have watched it a number of times since it's release. In any case, the new disc looks very good; the print is extremely clean with deep, rich colors and very solid blacks. As this new edition is hi-def remastered one would expect it to be sharper and it does seem to be; while not razor sharp, this is as good as I've seen the movie look after years of viewing it on cable, on tape and its previous DVD release.
Again, I can't discern alot of difference in comparison to the old edition. The sound here is good; I would have appreciated a remastered 5.1 offering of some sort, but the stereo track is solid with sufficient depth and clarity.
If you're looking for deleted footage in the form of extras or added footage making this a new cut of the movie, don't- because there isn't any. What you get here is the theatrical cut, and the same film that comprised the barebones edition.
Audio Commentary with director Rowdy Herrington- Herrington's commentary track is highly informative, if a little subdued; he walks the viewer through the shooting of the film, commenting on all the actors at some point as well as how he saw the script as a modern day Western, and the lengths he went to in order to get the look he wanted. Its worth checking out if you're a longtime fan of the movie.
Audio Commentary with Road House fans Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier- Smith and Mosier have alot of fun with this, an admitted cult favorite of the two. Expect a loose, fun, tongue consistently in cheek commentary with the boys, who also show themselves to be extremely knowledgeable on both the cast as well as the production itself. MST3K fans should have no trouble appreciating the offerings here with Smith and Mosier- its a hoot.
On The Road House- Clocking in at 17 minutes this is a recently filmed, retrospective featurette with Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Director Rowdy Herrington, Jeff Healy, Marshall Teague (uber-bad guy Jimmy in the film), and martial arts choreographer Benny "The Jet" Urquidez discussing the ongoing appeal of Road House to the masses; its similarity to a Western film, the very comic book-like appearance of the movie with vibrant colors, almost superhuman good guys and bad guys, beautiful women and over the top action sequences; the filming, the bonds made making the movie, the surprise all the stars seem to have at how enduring the popularity of the movie has been to date. A fun piece to see, if only to get a look at the actors in present day.
What Would Dalton Do?- Coming in at 12 minutes, a series of conversations with real life coolers and bouncers and how they handle real crowds and dangerous situations in their profession. I'd rather see more behind the scenes stuff on the movie.
Trivia Track- An endless deluge of tidbits about seemingly anything and nothing, mostly not involving the movie itself, shown onscreen as one watches the film. I felt like I was at a sports bar watching the screen with one of those trivia game pads in my hand. Thanks, but I'll be leaving this option in the off position.
Sneak Peek at Road House 2
Let's face it; the main reason this new Deluxe Edition likely exists is to ride piggyback on the new direct-to-video sequel, Road House 2 which was released the same day. Happily, rather than simply slap a new cover on the old disc there have been some tweaks made as well as an assortment of bells and whistles installed.
Just how much you enjoy the film is going to dictate whether you feel this is deserving of a double dip. If you love the movie then by all means I say pick it up for the commentaries and the featurette present here. As far as how the film looks and sounds in comparison to the barebones disc, there isn't a whole lot of difference to this viewer' eyes and ears, but that is a compliment to the old edition as I've always felt it looked and sounded fine. If you're a casual fan and already have the barebones edition, don't waste your time. If Road House is one of your longtime favorites, the new deluxe edition isn't a huge improvement over the old version, but still recommended.