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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Joint is Jumpin'

Road House (1989) on IMDb

Plot Overview

A big KEYBOARD displayed vertically on a sign reading BANDSTAND marks a place where they have “Live Music.” An appreciative clientele is in the swing of things. High heels from an Air­port Limo Service herald high class. People are dancing and drinking and partying; it's a racially mixed group. A sucker punch calls the bluff of bouncer James Dalton (Patrick Swayze) who handles the situation well and then stitches himself up.

On the scene arrives one Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe) owner of the Double Deuce Bar up by Kansas City who “need[s] some­body to help me clean the place up; I need the best.” The best would be Dalton's friend Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott) who taught him the business, but he's getting too old for that cachet, so Tilghman hires Dalton. He arrives (“Welcome to Jasper”) in his Mercedes unannounced. The band is playing “On the Road Again” behind a chicken wire barrier to protect them from flying debris. After they play “Run­around Sue”, Dalton greets the blind blues­man Cody (Jeff Healey) who assesses the place as, “Man, this toilet is worse than the one that we worked in Dayton.” It soon degenerates into a wild melee.

Dalton purchases a junker from Big "T" Auto Sales and rents a room in the country from one salt-of-the-earth old-timer Emmet ('Sunshine' Parker), it having survived unoccupied on the rental market for its “No phone, no conditioned air, no tolerance for fragrance of nature.”

The next day Tilghman introduces Dalton to his staff as “The best damn cooler in the business” and puts him in charge of the bar. Dalton announces his management philosophy: “My way ... or the highway” and tells them, “All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never under­­estimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it out­side. Never start any­thing inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.” To the tune, “Life Could Be a Dream,” we note the bar seems to be full of bullies and beauties, i.e. 40-year-old adolescent males and women who like to flaunt their assets, both of whom presumably lack real prospects in life.

Dalton practices his Tai Chi at the farm, mixes it up some at the bar, and meets lovely “Hi, I'm Dr. Clay” (Kelly Lynch) at the community hospital (“Looks like a knife wound.”) He will soon become acquainted with local gangster Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), need Garrett for reinforce­ment (“New town, same story”), and even then might have to cut and run before the body count grows.


For all his muscle Dalton boasts a degree in Philosophy from NYU. And for such a shallow plot, there's a subtle corres­pon­dence to one of the Psalms: (Psalm 145:14-16) “The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” Wesley's one unassuming gangster Tinker kow­tows (“I'm sorry, boss”) and takes a fall in the final fight: “A polar bear fell on me.” Yet he's the only bad guy left standing in the end. Waiting eyes is suggested by the see-through chicken wire in front of the band. The town gets its “meat”, i.e. nourish­ment, after its deliverer lifts the yoke of "protection money" for the Jasper Improvement Society—it had improved nobody but Wesley. Emmet had needed the rent money to make the Presbyterian church happy who'd evidently been slighted from the businesses paying their tithes to Wesley instead of to God. God's mighty hand that opens is suggested by the big KEYBOARD sign inviting a HAND from the sky to play it. The big game hunter gets his come­uppance in the end. The plot can be looked at as an instance of, (Psalm 145:9) “The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”

Emmet on learning Dalton had a woman in his room, exercised discretion leaving them to work out matters on their own, and his prayer (“Don't give me no lip, Lord”) fore­stalled any preachy sermons. This affinity towards his protector was echoed in his prayer, along the lines of Saint John of Kronstadt (52):

“He is near to his heart” is said of two persons of unequal rank, one of whom protects the other.  And the one who has been honoured by the protection of the higher person, and by being near to his heart, knows this, and is reciproc­ally near him in his own heart.  It is thus between God and those who serve Him with a pure heart: God is always near to their heart, and they are near God's heart.  It should also be the same during the prayer of every Christian: when praying we must absolutely be near to God in our heart.  All that is good and sincere in our inter­course with our fellow-man should be trans­ferred to God.

The issue between Dalton and his woman threatened by Wade came down to, “Doc, the man is crazy.” Her reply, “And you're not?” He does seem to be sex-crazed, shacking up with a hottie out­side of wed­lock, and she having a history with Wade, and them cavorting on the roof out­side his room in plain view of Wade across the way. It was Dalton's sexual predilections with a Memphis woman who turned out to be married that got him in hot water down there, and you'd think he would have learned some­thing from it. Oh well, time for another lesson.

Production Values

This gem of a flick, “Road House”, (1989) was directed by Rowdy Herring­ton. It's as camp as the director's name. The screen­play was written by David Lee Henry and Hilary Henkin. It stars Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, and Sam Elliott. Swayze is nothing short of amazing. He's very likable and quits him­self well as an actor. His chemistry with Kelly Lynch was spot on. Ben Gazzara hams it up as Wesley, the main villain. Kelly Lynch smolders as the love interest. Sam Elliott is one cool bad ass Wade Garrett, friend of Dalton. Marshall Teague is tough as Jimmy, Wesley's number one enforcer who's prison hard and kung fu skilled. Kevin Tighe the bar owner reminds me of former bosses. Jeff Healey a blind musician playing a blind musician really belted out the tunes. The rest of the cast were swell, too.

“Road House” is rated R, and signs out­side the bar read,  No One Under 21 Allowed. Blind blues guitarist Jeff Healey and The Jeff Healey Band livened up the movie with '60s music appealing to its regressive clientele and me as well. The film is photo­graphed with minimum efficiently, and Michael Kamen gives us fundamental music. The whole film's saturated with bright neon colors, from the garish & bright late 1980's fashions to the neon signs & illuminated decor.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“Road House” is a camp classic. It's so bad it's good … but not for the reasons intended. Only the music seems a straight­forward winner. Lots of muscles and cleavage and skin, not to mention gory wounds and explicit sex. It's a cool, classic B action movie. Don't bring a date unless you know she can handle relentless fisti­cuffs. Guys probably don't need an excuse. It does have some redeeming qualities that made it palatable to me with modest standards.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for male Groups. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Sergieff, Archpriest John Iliytch. My Life in Christ. or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and Peace in God: Extracts from the diary of St. John of Kronstadt (Arch­priest John Iliytch Sergieff). Trans­lated with the author's sanction, from the Fourth and Supplemental Edition by E.E. Goulaeff. St. Peters­burg. Jordans­ville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2000. Print.