Road House (1989): Herrington’s Romantic Actioner, Starring Patrick Swayze

Rowdy Herrington helmed Road House a romantic actioner, starring Patrick Swayze as a cooler at a newly refurbished roadside bar who protects a small Missouri town from a corrupt businessman and his honchos.

Grade: C (11/2* out of *****)

Sam Elliott co-stars as 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 antagonist.

Road House

Theatrical release poster

Swayze is well cast as James Dalton, a professional “cooler,” a specialized bouncer, with a mysterious past who is enticed from his job at a club in New York by Frank Tilghman to take over security at his club, the Double Deuce, in Jasper, Missouri.

Planning to invest money into the club to enhance its image, he needs a first-rate cooler to maintain stability. Dalton takes lodging at a local farm owned by Emmett.

Dalton’s quiet demeanor is contrasted with the tough locals. Dalton’s “real” car is a 1986 Mercedes 560SEC with New York license plates which he keeps hidden, instead using a 1965 Buick Riviera that’s vandalized by disgruntled bar patrons.

After a violent night where Dalton is forced to remove Wesley’s henchmen, he suffers a knife wound. At the hospital, he strikes up friendship with Dr. Elizabeth “Doc” Clay, who becomes his romantic interest.

The movie is cheesy in its plot, and the romantic relationship rather flat, despite efforts to make the couple sexy.  In the end, the movie is neither satisfying as an actioner or as ab erotic flick.

Roadhouse is the kind of bad movie that, seen in the right perspective and with low expectations, could be sporadically enjoyable.

Sporting long hair (as the fashion was) and muscled up body, Swayze is often shirtless, working overtime to exude sex appeal. He is playing here a similar part to that which he did in the 1987 hit, Dirty Dancing, a much better picture.   At the time, Swayze reportedly had a strong female fanbase among teenagers.

Upon initial release the picture, made on a budget of 15 million, was a box-office flop.  However, it later did better on VHS and DVD, despite (or because of) its five nominations for the Razzie Awards.

Patrick Swayze as James Dalton
Kelly Lynch as Dr. Elizabeth “Doc” Clay
Sam Elliott as Wade Garrett
Ben Gazzara as Brad Wesley
Kevin Tighe as Frank Tilghman
Red West as Red Webster
Jeff Healey as Cody
“Sunshine” Parker as Emmett
Marshall Teague as Jimmy
John Doe as Pat McGurn
Kathleen Wilhoite as Carrie Ann
Terry Funk as Morgan
Julie Michaels as Denise
Anthony De Longis as Gary Ketchum
Travis McKenna as Jack
Keith David as Ernie Bass, the new bartender
John William Young as Tinker


Directed by Rowdy Herrington

Produced by Joel Silver

Screenplay by David Lee Henry, Hilary Henkin, story by David Lee Henry

Music by Michael Kamen

Cinematography Dean Cundey

Edited by John F. Link, Frank J. Urioste
Production company Silver Pictures
Distributed by MGM/UA Communications Co.

Release date: May 19, 1989
Running time: 114 minutes