ROAD HOUSE. Truly masculine cinema
I remember it like it was yesterday: Baltic Sea, summer 1991, a bar by the beach. And there he was, a butcher by trade, a bouncer by choice, a man known as Iran – no one knew his real name, only the nickname he earned from contracts while building roads somewhere in the Middle East. A man-machine with hands the size of a Mercedes car door, who, according to legend, used his right straight to stun bulls while working in the slaughterhouse. The bar itself was quite a dive, famous for warm beer, stale flounder, and the aforementioned Iran, who held the position of “head of security” in this place – and there was much to secure because during the day, it was frequented by beachgoers with families, while at night, wild parties with early Disco, liters of vodka, and the heated, age-old Polish-German friendship took place here.
Germans, although armed only with Marks and lightweight tanks like BMWs, were treated with a certain distance and a good dose of mistrust. As you can easily guess, the locals often looked for opportunities to dissect the reenactment of the Battle of Grunwald. I saw Iran in action only once, but it was a sight that will stay with me until the end of my days: a parking lot by the beach, a crowd of onlookers, and on the roof of our Fiat, a dancing security guard – against him, five older Wehrmacht corporals, in borderland uniforms with three stripes on their trouser legs. My father’s mustache almost came unglued from fear, my mother fainted, and I saw for the first time in real life what I had been watching on VHS for over two years – intense fighting in the old, good style. To put it bluntly, Iran with a patriotic song on his lips, sucked in his opponents like a toffee packet – it was total annihilation. Before the poor guys realized what was going on, the guy was tearing off their heads along with their spines. At the moment when the guy was practically sweeping up after the execution (there’s no other way to describe it), someone in the crowd shouted the slogan: “Like Patrick Swayze in a Road House” – I had no idea what that meant, but my father did. After returning from vacation, he glued on a mustache and quickly went to the nearby video rental store.
The title that he came back home with was Road House. It is a work filled with Goethe-like romanticism, an artistic tale about strength, honor, and love – a magnificent attempt to bring the profession of a “badass bouncer” closer to ordinary mortals, and for me, a personal lesson that one should not judge a book by its cover. Who knows, maybe Iran wasn’t just a bull-beater, a mindless killing machine, but a man with ordinary human fears, a poet-bard-warrior who, like Swayze, seeks his place in the world in the film.
It’s astonishing how sometimes such a simple film like Road House can teach us so much. The story is as old as time: someone needs to put some tough guys in their place, or rather, make sure the tough guys get what they deserve. The matter is simple; Dalton is the best bouncer in the business, so when the owner of a dive bar decides to turn his investment around, he naturally turns to him for help. Swayze accepts the offer, brings about a small revolution in the bar, crosses paths with a few people (including a gangsta granny who shakes the whole town), wins the hearts of the local ladies with the super-hot Dr. Clayton leading the way, and gives demonstrations of some unspecified martial arts (Sway-jitsu?).
Road House may be an example of a film tailored for the Oscar season, but don’t let my description referring to the artistic spirit of this production deceive you, because the core of the story is truly masculine cinema, where there’s plenty of ass-kicking, a few bodies drop, and perky boobs are in abundance. I’ll dwell on this a bit longer because it has to be acknowledged that for a young guy who only just figured out how to distinguish reptiles from mammals in biology class, the Road House screenings were a wonderful lesson in female anatomy. For all of this, I have to thank the screenwriters, the director, and the wonderful Julie Michaels. There are two heroines in the film that are worth mentioning: the tanned, long-legged Dr. Clayton, and the redneck beauty who is infatuated with Swayze and behaves around him like a loving tomcat after catnip. The girl might not be a genius and her hair is so bleached that her head could serve as an atmospheric processor for the colonization of Mars, but she has an adorable face, a divine body, and performs a fully professional striptease on command.
Maybe I don’t know much, but I’ll take a shot in the dark and guess that for most guys watching this movie, more than IQ, they were interested in the size of her bra – pigs! By the way, it’s this lady that Swayze had in mind when he sang “She’s Like the Wind,” because looking at what’s happening in the movie, this girl will blow everything away.
For the more “demanding” viewers, there’s the wonderful Kelly Lynch, and for the fairer sex, there are the muscles flexing, oil-drenched Patrick S., and, as always, the brilliant Sam Elliott. There is – I’ll repeat it – THERE IS no actor in the world who is more American, more laid-back, and cooler (though I can’t stand that word, there’s no other way to put it here) than Sam Elliott – this guy was born a cowboy! I don’t know if it’s the way he acts, how he moves in his films, or that throaty, gravelly voice (the same one you get from smoking two packs of Lucky Strikes a day and washing them down with battery acid), but Sam could easily become the father of my children.
It got a bit rainbowy there, but it’s related to the movie itself. There’s a legend that this production is so filled with homoeroticism that it could embarrass Top Gun. I’ll say this: indeed, in some places, you can sense a sweet whiff of gayness, especially in the scenes with one of the tough guys that Dalton fights. The guy keeps throwing Swayze a classic “gay look” all the time, and during the fight, he even tells him that in prison, he “f**ked guys like you,” but the way he ends his on-screen adventure clearly indicates that there’s no place for this production in the LGBTQ+ parade.
After all these years, the film is still as enjoyable as it was twenty years ago. It’s really a piece of good, silly, American craftsmanship. For me, it strikes the chords of nostalgia and wonderful childhood memories when the boundary between movie fiction and reality was easily blurred. Watching Road House, I felt like a kid again, observing the unruly Iran in the parking lot – a great movie, wonderful memories.