Why Road House Is the Best Action Movie of the ‘80s


Summary

  • Road House stands apart from other ’80s action movies with its unique “be nice” rule, where the protagonist Dalton strives to maintain peace before resorting to violence.
  • The impressive choreography and fitting music in Road House make the fight scenes captivating and well-executed.
  • Dalton, the troubled yet good-hearted protagonist, uses his skills to give the bad guys their comeuppance and avenge the death of a long-time friend.


When it comes to beat ‘em up flicks from the ’80s, there are so many worthy contenders to consider. From Van Damme, to Schwarzenegger to Stallone, there’s no shortage of bad guys eating a knuckle sandwich with a side of righteous vengeance. But let’s not forget about Patrick Swayze’s contribution to the punch fest in the form of 1989’s Road House; the film where Swayze is nice until he has a compelling reason not to be.

Swayze makes a name for himself as clean-cut “good guy” John Dalton, in this hard-hitting, bar-brawling film that is as unrelenting as it is endearing. It’s no mystery that Road House is considered one of the best action movies of the ‘80s. In anticipation of the upcoming Road House remake, we’re going to touch on some of the reasons why Road House stands apart from the rest of the herd. If Dalton’s countenance isn’t enough to seal the deal, don’t worry — he gets by with a little help from his friend, Wade Garrett, who was played by the impeccable Sam Elliott.

Updated Jan. 28, 2024: This article has been updated with additonal content and useful features.


The “Be Nice” Rule

One thing that truly sets Road House apart from its contemporaries is that Dalton doesn’t have an ax to grind. He’s hired on peace-keeping detail for the popular, yet notoriously tough bar, The Double Deuce. He is simply showing up to do the job he was paid to do: to make sure everybody is having a good time, enjoying the music, and not leveling the place to the ground during a bar brawl. His one golden rule of deescalation is simple:

“Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won’t walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can’t walk him, one of the others will help you, and you’ll both be nice. I want you to remember that it’s a job. It’s nothing personal. I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice.”

But there is no shortage of fighting in Road House, which is what makes it such a great film. When fists start flying, bottles start breaking, and knives are drawn, you know that it’s no longer time to be nice, and Dalton and his crew are going to do whatever it takes to keep the peace at the Double Deuce.

Impressive Choreography Set to Fitting Music

Kevin Tighe as Frank and Patrick Swayze as Dalton fight in Road House
MGM

We’ve made it clear that, in Road House, there are times to be nice, and then times when swift, decisive action is necessary. When a chaotic bar brawl breaks out, the editing and choreography of these scenes are not to be scoffed at. There’s a lot of mayhem happening on-screen, and it’s hard to capture it all with grace and clarity, but there’s not a moment within the shock-cutting cacophony of haymakers and chair throwing where you don’t know who has the upper hand, and who is at odds with one another.

Best of all? The soundtrack is provided by none other than legendary blues musician Cody (Jeff Healey), and we don’t have to worry about the band breaking their set mid-brawl; the band performs behind a cage, so there’s no chance a flying beer bottle will knock out the rhythm section while bedlam is happening on the dance floor. It’s safe to say that a choreographed fight scene is easy to keep in step if the blues jam is funky, and the amps are turned up.

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Protagonist with a Troubled Past and a Heart of Gold

By the third act of the film, we learn why Dalton has his famous “be nice” rule. The simple truth of the matter is that Dalton had accidentally killed a man in self-defense in an altercation prior to taking the job at the Double Deuce. Throughout the film we see a man at odds with himself, but he does everything in his power to use his skills to maintain peace and keep everybody safe. Dalton’s good intentions are seen immediately when he starts the job, when he first fires multiple employees right off the bat for drug dealing and theft.

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As Road House progresses, we learn that the Double Deuce, and most of Jasper, Missouri, are actually at the mercy of antagonist Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), who made his fortune extorting all the small businesses in the community. When Dalton’s gig turns from bouncing at a bar to taking much more serious matters into his hands, we know he’s the guy for the job, and that he’ll do it right.

Bad Guys Get Their Ultimate Comeuppance

As the plot unfolds, and we learn that the entire community of Jasper is at odds, there ends up being a final showdown at Wesley’s estate. After the death of Dalton’s mentor, Wade Garrett, there are no more rules. The idea of keeping the peace is long out the window, and it’s time to settle the score.

Dalton levels all of Wesley’s henchmen like they’re nothing, and the scene comes to a head in the form of one-on-one, hand-to-hand combat. Dalton walks away from an incapacitated Wesley, so he can turn him over to the law, but when Wesley draws his weapon, the townspeople show up in the nick of time, and finish him off in what can only be called an epic Caesarian level of assassination – complete with Wesley being thrown through a glass table in a hail of gunfire for dramatic effect.

Clocking in at just under two hours, Road House packs in high octane action with purpose, and lets everybody know that even “nice” guys can kick some serious butt. Here’s to hoping that the 2024 Road House remake will capture the same spirit as this classic!

Stream Road House on Max

Speaking of the remake, be sure to catch the 2024 Prime Video remake of Road House, which is currently slated for release on Mar. 21, 2024. Check out the trailer for it below.



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