Road House (1989)
By: Devon B. on February 12, 2013 | Comments
MGM | Region A | 2.35:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 114 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Rowdy Herrington
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Ben Gazzara, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliott
Screenplay: David Lee Henry, Hilary Henkin
Country: USA
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I was not always a connoisseur of fine cinema as I am now, and truth be told it took me many a year to develop my sophisticated sense of taste. One movie that illustrates my transitional phase, or indeed phases, into the erudite cinétaste I am renowned as now is Road House. It might seem rather peculiar, but I didn't care for Road House upon its initial release. I grew a little older, and a friend encouraged me to revisit the film, and on this subsequent viewing I found the film to be highly engaging. I grew older still, and foolishly forsook Road House for over a decade because I figured I had outgrown it. When I finally screened the film again I found that what I had actually done was entered into my final, and ultimate, stage as a patron of the arts, because now I can clearly see that Road House is not just highly engaging, it is fucking hilarious insanity.

Road House stars one Patrick Swayze, who dropped out of Tango & Cash to be in this one instead. This is probably for the best, as Road House wouldn't have been as ridiculous without him. Swayze is a hot shit bouncer that gets head hunted by the owner of the Double Deuce. The owner wants Swayze to clean his place up, and Swayze agrees, but some of the changes he makes have unexpected ramifications, including making the local kingpin target the establishment. Swayze has further enraged said kingpin by becoming romantically entangled with the object of the kingpin's desire, and so rather than do anything that a real person might do the pair ramp themselves up to a ridiculous showdown.

This is one bizarre movie – it clearly has a sense of humour, but seems blissfully unaware of how silly it is. Care is taken to address the fact that Swayze does not look the type for the role he's been cast in, but that just makes his casting seem even weirder, which in turn makes the movie even better. Perhaps the strangest thing about Road House is that it seems like a so-bad-it's-good movie, but it's not really. The movie is mostly competent, aside from some sucky acting, it's just so preposterous and daft that it's impossible to take it seriously. Once the set up is done and the heavy goes on a tanty like he was in a poorly scripted episode of The A-Team, the story goes from being impractical to being completely implausible, and I think that's when Road House's really shines. It has to be seen to be believed, and even after seeing it a few times I'm still not sure I believe it.

One clever thing about Road House was its attempt to reach several demographics. There's nudity, explosions and fighting for the action fans. There's Swayze for the ladies and gents that dig other gents. There's Swayze's hair for those that like to make fun of the 80s, which was a rather prescient thing for the filmmakers to know to include for future, hipper audiences. This combination of good and bad elements, plus the overblown nature of the film itself, creates an amalgamation that I've never seen replicated. It's cliché yet unique, straight faced yet playful, corny yet…no, honestly, it's just corny as all fuck, no ying and yang on that front.

Road House is not really a so-bad-it's-good, nor is it a straight up good film, yet it is good. It's a perplexing quandary that defies categorisation. I guess the most accurate description would be it's a hysterically awesome film.
The Disc
Road House's print is mostly clear and clean, but there are still a few spots and flecks to be seen. There's some edge enhancement and a bit of macroblocking, but I was surprised that the transfer was as good as it was for this budget title. The film can sport some solid detail, though it never becomes eye candy, but detail is a bit uneven. It looks like part of the culprit there may be some DNR, but detail is still present so it's not like watching the movie feels like a trip to a waxworks. I'm sure the film could look better, but for a cheaper Blu-ray this isn't bad.

The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which I found to be fairly front heavy. The rears did come into play here and there, but I didn't hear that much difference between it and the original mix when I sampled between the two. The lossless track has more depth and clarity than the lossy one, but it still won't test the stereo. There're also a few dubs. The Spanish track seemed muffled and had a bit of distortion, but the French audio seemed similar in quality to the lossy English track.

For people who want extras there is evidently a DVD combo pack release, and the DVD has all the special features on it. Unfortunately that means that this single disc Blu-ray only edition is pretty much barebones. It's just got the trailer, plus trailers for Red Dawn, Ronin and Hoosiers.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Over the years I've gone from disinterest in Road House, to finding it funny and awesome, to recognizing it as the funnily awesome masterpiece it is, but I still find Road House is hard to rate. It's certainly not perfect, but changing anything might negate its unusual charm. Since the only way I give a perfect score is if I think a film needs absolutely no changes whatsoever, I guess that makes Road House a five out of five? It's a shame that the special features weren't included on the Blu-ray itself because now I don't have them, but big fans probably had the DVD special edition already so this Blu-ray would be a double or triple dip at any rate. The Blu-ray is region locked, which seems like a foolhardy thing for MGM to have done given the disc doesn't appear to have ever been licensed for other territories, but maybe that's just the company paying tribute to this absurd film by utilising asinine business tactics for its HD release.

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