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MGM Studios DVD presents
Road House (1989)

"Pain don't hurt."
- Dalton (Patrick Swayze)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 04, 2003

Stars: Patrick Swayze
Other Stars: Kelly Lynch, Ben Gazzara, Sam Elliot
Director: Rowdy Harrington

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, frequent nudity, Swayze full monty)
Run Time: 01h:54m:02s
Release Date: February 04, 2003
UPC: 027616883148
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- CB+B+ D-

DVD Review

Road House, the 1989 film about a not so big, bad bouncer who saves a town (and, more importantly, a rowdy bar!) from corruption, wasn't exactly well-respected upon release. The film received terrible notices, did a tepid $30 million at the box office, and was nominated for no less than 5 Razzies (the anti-Oscars®), though it did prompt Patrick Swayze to ditch his action hero status and enter "Phase II" of his career (also known as "Operation: I want to make a movie even more maudlin than Dirty Dancing". In retrospect, though, this Joel Silver-produced testosterone buffet deserves a second look. Intentionally or not, Silver, director Rowdy Harrington, and writer David Lee Henry crafted a hilariously excessive send-up of action movie overindulgence, and a camp classic on par with Showgirls.

Patrick Swayze stars as Dalton, a legendary bouncer who has a reputation for keeping even the roughest customers in line. He's not just hired muscle, though—he's also got a Ph.D. in philosophy, which means he can utter such enlightening phrases as, "In a fight, no one wins." He comes to the Double Duce bar in Jackson, Mississippi to, as the copy on the box puts it, "restore order." Because the bar is, like, a rouge nation! Actually, the obvious parallel is with the classic Westerns, the legendary lawman riding into a lawless town, with the Duce the trashy '80s stand in for the saloon. It seems that the Duce is overrun with the hired goons of crime boss Brad Wesley (Gazzara), who really should think about changing his name, because it's striking fear into the hearts of no one (never mind that it came out of a western, as did most of the characters' names and personalities). The owner of the bar wants to reclaim his business and expand, but Wesley (hee hee) is vaguely motivated to keep it the way it is.

After getting knifed his first night on the job, Dalton visits Doc (Kelly Lynch), who sews him up whilst engaging in rather blunt verbal foreplay. It's no surprise when they are shortly thereafter boinking with wild abandon, and showing wanton disregard for Dalton's tender stitches (not that Lynch makes a very credible doctor anyway... "Tee hee, medicine is fun!"). And, as bad luck would have it, Doc was Gazzara's secret stalker crush, making Dalton his number one target. Dalton puts his smarts to good use and enlists some help from Wade Garrett (Sam Elliot) and prepares for a final, oil-soaked, homoerotic showdown with the weasely Wesley.

The movie is over-the-top from start to finish, from the horrid dialogue ("I used to f*** guys like you in prison!"), to Dalton's philosophical lectures ("Pain don't hurt."), to the lurid sex scenes (with plenty of rear on display, both Lynch's and Swayze's, though the film is really about the secret love of Dalton and Wade). The plot doesn't make much sense, but that doesn't matter, because there's a lot of it. That, in combination with Herrington's superbly unsubtle direction and that slick Silver sheen, is enough to turn Road House from beefcake into rich, creamy cheesecake. Best served chilled, with plenty of beer.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: MGM offers Road House in either 2.35:1 anamorphic or 1.33:1 P&S ratios, housed on opposite sides of a DVD-10. Both continue the streak of great catalogue transfers that has made MGM one of my favorite studios in recent years. Colors look crisp and sharp with no obvious smearing and accurate fleshtones. Fine detail is excellent, and the source material looks to be in very good shape, with no obvious dirt, scratches, or grain. Blacks are solid throughout, and shadow detail is above average for a movie from the late 1980s.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: MGM usually offers 5.1 remixes for their older titles, but I guess Road House didn't warrant the effort. That's fine; this is a surprisingly active 2.0 mix that suits the film quite well. The front soundstage handles most of the action, but does so nicely, employing frequent directionality and separation between the channels. Dialogue is always clear, anchored largely in the center channel with only a bit of bleeding into the mains. The surrounds offer some good support for the score, and LFE, while not a major presence, offers some enhancement.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Scanavo
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Sadly, only the trailer (though it does include snippets of a few deleted scenes). I was so hoping for a commentary from Rowdy Harrington. Has he no respect for his camp masterpiece?

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

I'm lowering the grade on Road House because I don't think that the filmmakers intended to produce what amounts to a spot-on parody of an overblown beefcake flick. That doesn't mean it isn't entertaining for all the oh-so-wrong it's oh-so-right reasons. Why not celebrate a Patrick Swayze Christmas this February (with apologies to Crow T. Robot of MST3K)?


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