Road House (1989)

“Opinions Vary.”

Everybody hated this movie.

Variety hated it. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times hated it. And it received five Golden Raspberry Awards nods for Worst Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor (Ben Gazzara? No, way, for he rocketh), Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay. Then John Wilson, the founder of the Golden Raspberries, listed it in his The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of “The 100 Most Enjoyable Bad Movies Ever Made.”

Feldercarb, we say! For Pittsburgh born-and-bred director Rowdy Herrington* made this AND the Steel Town-set Striking Distance. And that’s the type of cinematic one-two punches we love ’round ‘ere in the B&S About Movies office cubicles, Big Hoss. Come on, now! A Doctor of Philosophy who travels the country as a bouncer kicking some town-psychopath ass and a Pittsburgh-bred, drunken river boat cop chasing down killers on the outskirts of Lawrenceville?

Seriously, what’s not to love here in this updated, glorified and horseless western (that takes place in Missouri, but was shot in California and Nevada)? And that’s what the mainstream critics who slagged Road House failed to see — and all of us lovers of all things “B-Movie” were able to see: Patrick Swayze’s Dalton is the new sheriff in a corrupt gold-mining town run by ex-Civil War hero-done-good, Brad Wesley. Only, this ain’t your granddad’s old n’ stuffy Cary Grant or Van Johnson western: this one’s modernized with a monster truck built specifically for the film**.

And Cary Grant or Van Johnson never delivered lines like this fan favorite:

Ah, but alas . . . for today, we came here not to bury Rowdy, but to praise John Doe, our favorite bassist from Los Angeles — this week of reviews is dedicated to him, after all — as the ne’er-do-well Pat McGurn, Brad Welsey’s favorite nephew with a weak constitution. As I look back on this film for “John Doe Week,” wow. Doe really shines in his role as Pat, whose loserville-status is what caused the whole dust-up between Sheriff Dalton and town “owner” Brad Wesley in the first place. Any other guy, after being fired — like myself, and Sam, B&S’s Chief Cook and Bottle Washer — would just find another job. But when you’re Pat McGurn: you run cryin’ to Uncle Brad who, in turn, gives you a couple of his guys to go kick some defenestration ass. Doc Clay, well, her stirrin’ up romance with the town’s new “bad boy,” that was just addin’ more tabasco to Brad’s breakfast Bloody Mary; lazy-ass Pat was the vodka, for you do not mess with the son of Brad’s only sister.

John, if you’re reading this: that’s sum mighty fine thepsin’, pardner!

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

* Rowdy Herrington sat down with us for an extended interview back in November of last year. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). He talks about Road House in the second part of the interview.

** In the movie, that truck, built in 1988 and known as Bigfoot 7, destroyed a new car showroom and crushed four new cars: a one-take shot that cost $500,000, a bill that could fund 10 of the low-budget flicks we normally review at B&S About Movies. And, yes, the truck did turn up again in Tango & Cash, another film that, like Road House, was slagged by critics across the board, but wow . . . we love that retro B-flick as well. The next time you’re in Kissimmee, Florida, for a Disney World romp, swing by Fun Spot America where Bigfoot 7 is currently displayed.