Think of how amazing 1989 was when it came to cinema.
The top grossing film of that year was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The second-highest grossing film was Batman. That year also featured the sequels for Back to the Future, Lethal Weapon, and Ghostbusters. None of those won Best Picture, though. That went to Driving Miss Daisy, and that drives me crazy.
How could they not hand the Best Picture award to another movie from 1989? No other movie carries watch-whenever-it-is-on-television potential more than Road House. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or what you’re doing, if you see that movie on your television, you’re parking your ass right down and watching it for however long it takes.
I can already hear the questions pouring it.
“But why?” you blurt out.
Because it’s fucking amazing, that’s why. Patrick Swayze plays a god damn bouncer! What else do you need?
“But why do I care that he’s a bouncer?”
BECAUSE HE’S PATRICK. GOD. DAMN. SWAYZE. And there’s no way in everlasting hell you’re just going to NOT watch Patrick Swayze be a “cooler,” as he’s called in the movie, when you have the chance to watch it. He literally beats the shit out of people with his feet, fists, and fabulousness. He has sex with Kelly Lynch while “These Arms of Mine” by Otis Redding plays in the background. Y’all, it’s an American classic.
Okay, so let’s get to the good stuff. There’s so much good stuff. So much.
As Patrick Swayze attempts to clean up the Double Deuce, a very turbulent bar in Jasper, Missouri, he gets met with a lot of opposition in the form of Brad Wesley, who is played by Ben Gazzara. Now, Wesley is basically the little mob boss guy in charge of the entire Podunk town. He controls everything from the liquor trade to gambling to car dealerships. The guy is basically the quintessential 1980’s movie douchebag archenemy.
Not to mention that Wesley also is quite fond of Dr. Elizabeth Clay, played by Kelly Lynch. And believe me, Wesley knows that James Dalton, who is Swayze, wants to get with Clay. It’s a major part of the story arc, and it’s quite hilarious to watch unfold because there’s nothing special about Wesley outside of the fact that he has a mansion that hosts weird parties along a riverfront. He’s basically the Jay Gatsby of the midwest, but way less rich.
There’s some dude named Jimmy who wants to beat the shit out of Swayze but we all know he’s just a knockoff Swayze. He’s literally dressed in all-denim at one point with some bolo-looking necklace and aviator sunglasses. Think of the one person from 1989 to 1994 that you’d want to beat the shit out of, and Jimmy would just pop into your mind. He’s that big of a lame-looking blowhard. He gets his in the end, though, and we will be getting to that.
Anyways, there’s a scene where a monster truck drives over cars at a dealership and it’s hilarious. Like, the people in the town act like they’ve seen a monster truck just demolish cars all the time. It’s a way of life in Missouri, apparently. Oh, and right around then is where we’re introduced to the greatest old-school-kick-ass-do-not-fuck-with-us quartet in movie history – Frank Tilghman, Red Webster, Emmett, and Pete Stroudenmire. More on them later.
One of Swayze’s best friends in the movie is Wade Garrett, played by Sam Elliott. If there’s anything you ever need to know about Elliott, it’s that he’s always going to be playing some tough, gruff looking dude who either kicks the living crap out of people for a living or has a bum knee – or in this instance, both! They’re great friends in the movie, though, and the movie really takes a pivotal turn when Elliott ends up getting stabbed and killed.
Swayze finds Elliott on top of the bar with a note that reads, “It was tails.” This was in response to a scene just prior to that where Wesley flips a coin with Swayze on the phone. The scene basically goes like this.
Wesley: “Wade or Elizabeth?”
Wesley: “One of them dies. Now, who will it be? Hmm?”
Swayze: “You are a sick man.”
Wesley: “Well, I just have to flip a coin. Now, hold on a second.”
*Wesley then proceeds to flip a coin, but the camera doesn’t show the result.*
Wesley: “Dalton, I’d sure like to tell you how it turned out.”
Wesley then hangs up the phone, and that’s that. Oh, wait, I messed up. I could just show you the damn scene for yourself. It’s a cinematic masterpiece considering the chilliness of it all. When they write the book about perfection in Hollywood, this specific scene is in the chapter about how there’s literally nothing that could be done to improve the overall chemistry and setting.
So, anyways, Swayze gets super pissed because, well, duh. He proceeds to take the knife out of Elliott’s chest and drives on over to Wesley’s house where Wesley’s henchmen are waiting outside armed to the teeth. The car gets shot to shit by them, but when they open the door they realize that the car is empty and Swayze had jury rigged the gas pedal down to the floor by stabbing it with the knife Wesley used to stab Elliott.
Swayze ends up getting the drop on the henchmen and basically kills all of them except for Tinker. Then Swayze and Wesley have a mano y mano fisticuffs to end the whole damn thing. Swayze ends up kicking the holy hell out of Wesley, but right before he’s about to kill him he decides better of it because, as a classic movie protagonist, he has a crisis of conscious. That’s when the real fun begins.
As Swayze spots Dr. Clay and starts to make his way to her, Wesley springs up and grabs his little starter pistol and aims it towards Swayze. He shouts, “It’s over!” and then a shotgun blasts rips through him. That blast was fired by Red Webster. Wesley looks in disbelief, but he still raises the gun a second time only to be hit by a second shotgun blast. This one comes courtesy of Emmett. Still, Wesley is undeterred and raises his pistol for a third time. He gets hit with another shotgun blast, but this one comes from Pete Stroudenmire. Wesley stammers back, still alive somehow because it’s the 1980’s and cocaine kept everyone alive for far longer than it ever should have, and then the greatest “GET OFF MY LAWN” moment in movie history happens.
After that, all that happens is one amazing quote is delivered by Tinker, the fat dude you see on the ground in that video above, and then there’s some naked river kissing by Swayze and Dr. Clay. It was a very 1980’s movie, and god dammit we loved all 114 minutes of that timeless masterpiece. From the garb to the gab to the guns to the girls to the guys, it was a fucking iconic film.
Oh, and is this a good time to mention that Terry Funk was in this god damn movie?!
That’s really Terry Funk, wrestling legend. Right there. In a movie in 1989. Before he retired from wrestling 74 times. Talk about a real star back then, huh? This movie had it all.
Patrick Swayze legitimately rips someone’s throat out. I’m not bullshitting you.
You will not find a bigger and better HOLY-SHIT-THAT-WAS-FANTASTIC MOMENT in any movie from 1989 than that one right there. Not a single one. That’s Jimmy, as you can tell since he’s dressed in his absurd all-denim look that only Chuck Norris probably approved. Jimmy and Swayze fight on the riverbank, and Swayze, after getting beat up for a little bit, proceeds to rip Jimmy’s throat out. It was talked about how Swayze did it once before, but it was almost folklore. In essence, it was the John Wick pencil thing long before the John Wick pencil thing. Keanu Reeves basically stole from Patrick Swayze.
So, they’re fighting on the riverbank and Swayze has a gun pulled on him by Jimmy because Jimmy’s just losing the fight and thinks that shooting him is the only way to win. Swayze gets mad, kicks the gun away, and then just goes full awesome and rips out Jimmy’s throat. It was a Mortal Kombat fatality three years before the first Mortal Kombat game came out. This movie was ahead of its time. Think of all the stuff it impacted just from this scene alone!
We can all thank Tinker, the only one of Wesley’s henchmen to live, for this one.
During that amazing scene where Swayze busts into Wesley’s compound and kills all of his henchmen, Tinker has to go into the trophy room, which is where the final battle takes place, to see if he can find Swayze and kill him. But Tinker is just like all of us. If you were confronted with trying to kill Patrick Swayze back in the late 80’s, you’d shit your pants, too, okay? Anyways, a stuffed polar bear falls on him.
In the scene, what you basically get from all of it is that Swayze kind of takes it easy on Tinker and just pushes a polar bear towards him. Tinker gets scared shitless, starts shooting the fucking bear rather than running away, and he inevitably trips and falls before the bear just lands on him and knocks him out. God damn the 80’s were stupidly fucking brilliant.
After the greatest-quartet-of-townfolk-that-ever-lived shoots and kills Brad Wesley, the cops come in and ask everyone what happened. Everyone responds with some variation of, “I didn’t see anything.” Finally, it gets to Tinker, and he just starts looking around the room before uttering his now classic line. A polar bear did fall on you, Tinker. And we love you for it.
Jimmy was a real pile of shit as a character, but holy shit did he give us a great line.
This line comes from the riverbank fight scene between Jimmy and Swayze. To sum up how it gets here, Jimmy lights Emmitt’s house on fire, which is where Swayze had been living. It had been a string of fires that Jimmy set, notably against Red’s hardware store and Emmitt’s house. There was also the car dealership owned by Pete Stroudenmire where the monster truck made an appearance, but that wasn’t Jimmy’s doing. However, we’ll blame him for it anyways because he’s Jimmy and Jimmy fucking sucked.
So, anyways, Swayze sees Jimmy riding off on his little dirt bike like a 16-year old drifter and chases him down on foot because, well, he’s Patrick god damn Swayze and he could have ran down anyone on foot in the 1980’s. Just go with it, okay? So they fight and fight and fight, and Jimmy gets the upper hand here. He’s positioned right behind Swayze in a dominant position, and I guess it just reminded him of his time in prison.
Jimmy just blurts this line out of nowhere, and it’s such a classic line because it really had no bearing on anything other than the fact it lets us know Jimmy was not to be trifled with. He was not just some ordinary thug-for-hire. This was Jimmy, the all-denim-wearing, dirt-bike-riding, prison-sex-having stud. We should have respected him more at the time, but he’s Jimmy and Jimmy sucks.
But, to be fair, we do thank you for this quote, Jimmy, because without it we would have been extremely lost with what to think about your character. You went from annoying to possibly bad ass to holy-shit-this-guy-is-a-psycho really fast, and it took real acting chops from you. God bless you and your prison exploits, sir.
If you ever have time to do anything for a full day, just watch a marathon of Road House because you will notice something new and awesome in every single scene. It’s just the way the movie is. It’s pure gloriousness and cinematic mastery. I don’t know how Rowdy Herrington didn’t win anything for directing this movie. It’s a real travesty. He didn’t direct a movie again until 1992, and that was Gladiator. No, not the one with Russell Crowe. I mean the good one. The one with Cuba Gooding, Jr. The boxing one. Oh, you haven’t seen it? WELL YOU FUCKING NEED TO! He also directed Striking Distance in 1993. Another classic.
While I’m sure that Road House is slept on as a great movie, what I know in my heart is that it will always be one of the 50 Greatest Movies Ever Made simply because it gave us Patrick Swayze at his peak, a legitimate villain in Brad Wesley, a love story that was simply hilarious and amazing, classic Sam Elliott, a Terry Funk appearance, and Jimmy. Poor, sweet, Jimmy.
Set aside 114 minutes out of your life and watch this tour de force. You will not regret it.
If you don’t do it, I’ll just let James Dalton, the best damn cooler ever, sum it up.