The year was 1989. The Berlin Wall fell. A guy stood in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize. And in the small town of Jasper, Mo., a mulleted bar bouncer with a vague knowledge of Zen philosophy as well as an allergic reaction to clothing was busy teaching people how to kick drunk jerks in the crotch. I’m referring, of course, to Road House, which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this May. As someone named Dalton who used to own a record label called Double Deuce (same name as the roadhouse in the film), I feel it is my duty — nay, my honor — to pay tribute to one of the quintessential action movies of the 1980s.
What makes Road House so special? How did this story in which the late, great Patrick Swayze plays bouncer Dalton — incidentally, I still have no idea whether that is his first or last name — become the camp classic that it is today? Perhaps it’s because this movie sets some sort of modern-day record for fisticuffs, with blows coming from and landing on every conceivable body part. I actually went back and charted every single contact point and now present a few of the highlights:
? Punches/kicks to face 67
? Punches/kicks to chest 45
? Punches/kicks to crotch 5
? Kicks to leg 9
? Missed punches/kicks 20
? Head butts 4
? Going airborne and tackling someone on a moving motorcycle 1
? Bottles broken on head 5
? Hits with African spear 5
? Misses with African spear 9
? Holding someone up for one last punch before reconsidering and simply letting him fall to the ground 2
? Men crushed by stuffed polar bear 1
But it is not just the absurd levels of violence that make Road House such a guilty pleasure. It is the Yoda-like nuggets of wisdom that Dalton dispenses along the way — philosophical mumbo jumbo that is as relentlessly entertaining as it is confusing. “I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice,” Dalton tells the other bouncers. Ummm, okay. “Pain don’t hurt,” he informs his doctor love interest. Well, my bad back begs to differ. “The ones who go looking for trouble are not much of a problem to someone who’s ready for them. I suspect it’s always been that way.” WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT?!?
Of course, it’s hard to pay attention to anything Dalton says when his naked pecs are constantly on display. Swayze spends pretty much the entire movie shirtless. He’s shirtless in bed. He’s shirtless in the bar. He’s shirtless in the hospital. He’s shirtless doing tai chi at sunset. He’s shirtless (and pantless) on the roof smoking a cigarette. He’s shirtless boxing in a barn. He’s shirtless arguing with a girlfriend in his apartment. He’s shirtless dragging the dead body of a guy whose jugular he just ripped out through a lake while yelling, “WESLEY!” at the top of his lungs. (Interestingly enough, he keeps his shirt on while having sex.)
Throw it all together and you have a movie for the ages — as long as that age is obsessed with big hair, red convertibles, and lines of dialogue like “I see you found my trophy room, Dalton. The only thing missing…is your ass!” So, happy 25th anniversary, Road House, from one Dalton to another.