Road House (1989 film)

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Road House
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rowdy Herrington
Produced by Joel Silver
Written by David Lee Henry
Hilary Henkin
Starring Patrick Swayze
Ben Gazzara
Kelly Lynch
Sam Elliott
Music by Michael Kamen
Willie Nile
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Edited by John F. Link
Frank J. Urioste
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • May 19, 1989 (1989-05-19)
Running time
114 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[2]
Box office $30,050,028

Road House is a 1989 action film directed by Rowdy Herrington and starring Patrick Swayze as a bouncer at a newly refurbished roadside bar who protects a small town in Missouri from a corrupt businessman.[3] Sam Elliott also plays a bouncer, the mentor, friend and foil of Swayze's character. The cast also includes Kelly Lynch as Swayze's love interest, and Ben Gazzara as the main antagonist.


James Dalton (Patrick Swayze) is a professional "cooler" (i.e. specialized doorman, or bouncer) with a mysterious past who is enticed from his current job at a club in New York by Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe) to take over security at his club/bar, the Double Deuce, in Jasper, Missouri. Tilghman plans to invest substantial money into the club to enhance its image, and needs a first-rate cooler to maintain stability.

Arriving in Jasper, Dalton eventually takes lodging at a local farm. He attracts attention driving his 1965 Buick Riviera and having a quiet demeanor—contrasting with the tough locals. Dalton's "real" car is a 1989 Mercedes 560SEC with New York license plates, which he keeps hidden (at a private garage and later under a car cover in his landlord's barn in Jasper) because it becomes a target for disgruntled bar patrons. Dalton is soon introduced to local business magnate (and next door neighbor) Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), who appears to have a stranglehold on the town; little happens without his knowledge and approval. In the course of cleaning up the violent nightclub, Dalton dismisses several unruly and corrupt employees, some of whom are connected with Wesley. After one particularly violent night where Dalton is forced to physically remove Wesley's henchmen, he suffers a knife wound. Going to the hospital for stitches, he strikes up a friendship with Dr. Elizabeth "Doc" Clay (Kelly Lynch), which develops into a romantic relationship.

Wesley summons Dalton to his home in a seemingly innocent attempt to make peace, but has an ulterior motive: Wesley would like Dalton to work for him once he extorts Tilghman's club. When Dalton declines, Wesley begins an assault on Dalton's friends, including interfering with liquor deliveries to the Double Deuce. Dalton's mentor, legendary but aging cooler Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott), arrives in town after a disconcerting phone call from Dalton and helps him defend a liquor shipment from Wesley's thugs.

That evening, local business owner Red Webster's (Red West) auto parts store is destroyed by a fire after he refuses to give ground to Wesley's persistent extortion demands. Dalton, not wanting to exacerbate matters, allows Wesley and his men entrance to the club that night. The next day, car dealership owner Pete Stroudenmire becomes Wesley's next victim when he also refuses to pay. As a result, Wesley has one of his thugs, Gary Ketchum, demolish the structure and four station wagons in the showroom with his monster truck (BIGFOOT #7) as Dalton and his friends look on with contempt.

That night, Doc visits Dalton and attempts to persuade him to leave. However, their conversation is interrupted by a powerful explosion. Dalton rescues Emmett from the blaze before his house is completely destroyed. He then witnesses one of Wesley's henchmen, Jimmy (Marshall Teague), fleeing the scene, and manages to intercept him. After a vicious fight, Dalton kills Jimmy by ripping off his throat with his bare hand. The next morning, Dalton receives an ominous phone call from Wesley, who vows to have either Wade or Doc killed. At that moment, Wade staggers into the Double Deuce, badly beaten but alive. Believing Doc to be in danger, Dalton races to the hospital, but she refuses to leave with him, repulsed by his increasingly violent nature. Upon returning to the Double Deuce, Dalton finds Wade sprawled out on the bar with a knife lodged in his chest. Fighting back tears, an enraged Dalton pulls the knife free and jumps into his car, determined to settle the score with Wesley.

Driving his Mercedes, Dalton speeds recklessly toward Wesley's estate, drawing gunfire from Wesley's henchmen, but they discover the car empty, and the knife that was used to kill Wade stuck in the accelerator. One by one, Dalton dispatches each of Wesley's toughs, and eventually comes face-to-face with Wesley. Dalton gains the upper hand in their fight and prepares to finish Wesley in the same brutal manner as Jimmy, but decides against it. When Dalton releases him, Wesley seizes the opportunity to reach for a gun, but is promptly shot to death by Red, Emmett, Stroudenmire, and Tilghman. They stash the weapons away prior to the arrival of law enforcement and proceed to corroborate each other's innocence, with the implication that what happened in Wesley's house will remain a secret.

The final scene finds Dalton and Doc enjoying each other's company in a swimming hole, suggesting that they do get together—and Dalton remains in town for good.



Filming locations[edit]

The Double Deuce scenes were filmed in Newhall, California. The bar was constructed for the movie and dismantled once filming was completed. The filming of much of the "New Double Deuce" was done at the Cowboy/The Bandstand (went by other names as well until it closed) located at 1721 S Manchester Ave in Anaheim, California, USA. Scenes involving Brad Wesley's house and the house in which Dalton rents a room were filmed outside of Sanger, California, and the opening and monster truck scenes were filmed in Reedley, California. The Kings River (California) runs between the two residences.


The film had a mixed reception with critics. Negative reviews such as one published by Variety is critical of "a flat romantic attachment" between Dalton and Clay while lobbying criticism since its "vigilante justice, lawlessness and wanton violence feel ludicrous in a modern setting."[4] Other reviews are critical of Swayze's role as Dalton.[5] [clarification needed][6] Roger Ebert gave the movie 2½ out of 4 stars and commented that "'Road House' exists right on the edge between the 'good-bad movie' and the merely bad. I hesitate to recommend it, because so much depends on the ironic vision of the viewer. This is not a good movie. But viewed in the right frame of mind, it is not a boring one, either."[7] The film has earned a 40% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews

Road House was nominated for (but did not win) five Golden Raspberry Awards: Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Patrick Swayze), Worst Supporting Actor (Ben Gazzara), Worst Director and Worst Screenplay. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.[8]

Box office[edit]

Although the film was not a major box office success, it did quite well on home video.[9][10][11][12] The film also found life on cable television.[13] Over time, the movie has garnered a cult following.


The soundtrack for Road House featured the Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey, whose band was featured in the film as the house band for the Double Deuce. Cruzados were the band in the opening credits, contributing three songs to the film that never made the soundtrack. Patrick Swayze also wrote 1 song and sang two for the soundtrack. The film's score was composed by Michael Kamen.

Road House soundtrack album
No. Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "Roadhouse Blues"   Jim Morrison,
Robby Krieger,
John Densmore,
Ray Manzarek
The Jeff Healey Band 4:51
2. "Blue Monday"   Dave Bartholomew, Antoine "Fats" Domino Bob Seger 2:22
3. "Sh-Boom"   James Keyes, Claude Feaster & Carl Feaster, Floyd F. McRae, and James Edwards The Crew-Cuts 4:26
4. "These Arms of Mine"   Otis Redding Otis Redding 2:31
5. "When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky"   Bob Dylan The Jeff Healey Band 4:54
6. "Rad Gumbo"   Bill Payne, Paul Barrere, Martin Kibbee, Sam Clayton, Kenny Gradney Little Feat 3:30
7. "Raising Heaven (In Hell Tonight)"   Willie Nile, Martin Briley Patrick Swayze 4:41
8. "A Good Heart"   Maria McKee Kris McKay 4:59
9. "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man"   Willie Dixon The Jeff Healey Band 5:14
10. "Cliff's Edge"   Patrick Swayze, Stacy Widelitz, Bob Marlette Patrick Swayze 4:01
Total length:

Cultural impact[edit]


A sequel, Last Call, was released directly to DVD in July 2006. Set many years later and telling the story of Dalton's adult son, it featured no one from the original cast and only a few references to Dalton (who was reportedly shot dead before the film took place). The sequel confirmed that Dalton's first name was James, which could be seen momentarily on the medical chart in the original film's hospital scene, but which had been otherwise unstated. At the same time Road House 2 was released, the original film was reissued in a deluxe edition featuring, among other features, separate audio commentary tracks by director Rowdy Herrington, Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier, which the duo had expressed an interest in during the introduction of the tenth anniversary Clerks DVD.[14]


In 2003, an off-Broadway musical production of Road House was staged as a campy comedy by Timothy Haskell, as seen by its full title of Road House: The Stage Version Of The Cinema Classic That Starred Patrick Swayze, Except This One Stars Taimak From The 80’s Cult Classic “The Last Dragon” Wearing A Blonde Mullet Wig.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

As a training video[edit]

It was reported that the NYPD were using a scene from Road House as part of the mandatory, three-day retraining course for 22,000 cops.[17]


  1. ^ "ROAD HOUSE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 1989-06-05. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  2. ^ "MOVIES SEXY SWAYZE On the Set of His First Film Since `Dirty Dancing'". The Los Angeles Times. 1988-07-24. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  3. ^ Benson, Sheila (1989-05-28). "Losing Sight of the Reasons for Success Film makers sometimes have blind spots when they seek to capitalize on an earlier movie". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  4. ^ "Road House". Variety. 1988-12-31. Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  5. ^ James, Caryn (1989-05-19). "Road House". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  6. ^ Benson, Sheila (1989-05-19). "MOVIE REVIEW Taste Takes a Detour in `Road House'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Road House:: Reviews". Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  8. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0. 
  9. ^ Easton, Nina J. (1989-05-23). "Swayze Flexes Box-Office Muscle". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  10. ^ Atkinson, Terry (1989-12-15). "VIDEO . . . WHAT'S NEW A Weekend Designed for Crystal Gazing THIS WEEK'S MOVIES". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  11. ^ Hunt, Dennis (1990-01-18). "Road House' Looks Like a Hit". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  12. ^ King, Susan (2006-07-18). "Where nothing is as it seems". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ [2][dead link]
  15. ^ "Road House". Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  16. ^ "Road House (1989) Movie Recap, Page 15 @ the agony booth : obsessing over movies and TV since 2002". Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  17. ^

External links[edit]