Wednesday, 21 December 2016
Road House (1989)
"Pain don't hurt."
There are a few ways you can interpret Road House's most (in)famous line of dialogue. The most obvious is that it's nonsense. Clearly pain does hurt. That's what "pain" means. But since the line is delivered by our protagonist, we're probably not supposed to be uncharitable. Indeed, since the film is overtly positioning said protag as a "warrior philosopher" - and I do mean overtly, since the same conversation will establish that he has an actual degree in philosophy - the intent would appear to be either that pain is something that a properly disciplined mind can rise above, or that physical pain is nothing compared to spiritual torment. Because of course our warrior philosopher is spiritually tormented.
Said warrior philosopher is James Dalton, a nightclub bouncer who is renowned for his ability to keep things calm within a club and in those rare cases where things do get violent, for his ability to end them quickly. Dalton gets hired to come clean up a bar named the "Double Deuce", which has become so rowdy that there's "blood on the floor every night".
It will soon emerge that there's a reason the place is getting so out of control: Brad Wesley, a local businessman-slash-extortionist, is turning the town into his own personal fief. Naturally some of the big trouble makers at the Double Deuce are personally connected to Wesley, which puts him and Dalton on a collision course.
So what we've basically got here is your typical knight errant tale - he comes to town, meets a woman, and falls afoul of the evil baron - updated to the 1980s. And make no mistake, this film is so very, very 1980s, from the hair to the fashion to the complete lack of nuance in the script.
I saw Road House back when it first came out and enjoyed it a lot: but then it had plenty of topless ladies and fight scenes, and when I was 17 that was pretty much all a film needed to keep me interested. Watching it today, I'm much more aware of the clumsiness of both the script and the fight choreography, of how uncomfortable Patrick Swayze looks in the tough guy role, and of how weak the acting is on the whole.
Movie-making techniques have developed a lot in the past couple fo decades, and Road House shows every one of its 27 years at this point.