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Road House 1 & 2

Road House (July 11/06)

Road House has justifiably become a cult classic in the years since its 1989 theatrical release, and it's certainly not difficult to see why. With its emphasis on action, silly one-liners, and distinctly over-the-top characterizations, the film exemplifies the sort of excess that was prevalent in the 1980s. And although it's ultimately undone by an overlong running time, Road House generally comes off as a mindless, flat-out fun piece of work. Patrick Swayze stars as James Dalton, a legendary bouncer who's hired to clean up a rowdy bar called the Double Deuce - where he eventually runs afoul of a local criminal and his goons. Director Rowdy Herrington - working from a script by David Lee Henry and Hilary Henkin - infuses Road House with an expectedly broad vibe, eschewing anything even resembling subtlety in favor of larger-than-life action sequences and characters that are ridiculously ethical or flat-out evil. And for a while, it works; Herrington's surprisingly adept direction is mirrored by Swayze's engaging, personable performance, while the film's more violent moments have been imbued with a gleefully brutal sensibility that's sorely missing from contemporary flicks of this ilk. But at close to two hours, Road House eventually wears out its welcome; there's only so much machismo one can take, and it's clear that the movie would've benefited greatly from some judicious editing. Still, it's hard to go wrong with a film that features such choice bits of dialogue as "nobody ever wins a fight," "be nice until it's time to not be nice," and, of course, "pain don't hurt."

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Road House 2 (July 11/06)

Road House 2 is the latest in a seemingly neverending line of direct-to-video sequels from Sony, following such needless efforts as Hollow Man 2, The Net 2.0, and Single White Female 2. And although Road House 2 never quite reaches the same depths of awfulness as those titles, there's simply no getting around the overwhelming vibe of redundancy at work here. The film stars Johnathon Schaech as Shane Turner, the son of James Dalton (Patrick Swayze's character from the original) and a tough-as-nails DEA agent. After his uncle is savagely beaten by callous drug dealers, Shane decides to take matters into his own hands and heads to Louisiana for revenge. A remake as much as it is a sequel, Road House 2 features many of the same one-liners and action beats as its predecessor - ie Shane's uncle, while lying in a hospital, remarks, "your dad got one thing wrong: pain does hurt!" - and generally comes off as nothing more than a low-rent carbon copy. The extraordinarily tedious storyline - revolving around drug dealers, DEA agents, and the like - certainly doesn't help matters, nor does director Scott Ziehl's bland sense of style (the movie essentially resembles every other contemporary direct-to-video actioner). Schaech delivers a competent performance, though he doesn't possess an ounce of Swayze's charisma - while villain Jake Busey goes over-the-top early and often (Will Patton, relegated to about five minute's worth of screentime, is clearly the best thing about the movie). Road House 2 might appeal to fans of generic action flicks, but one would clearly be better off just re-watching the original (which, for what it is, is actually quite an effective little movie).

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About the DVDs: Both Road House and its sequel arrive on DVD armed with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and although Road House 2 comes up empty in terms of bonus features, Road House has been given the special edition treatment. The disc includes a commentary track with director Herrington, a pair of featurettes, and a trivia track. But the entire DVD is surely worth a purchase if only for the second commentary track, which features Road House superfans Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier (not surprisingly, the track is much, much more entertaining than the feature).
© David Nusair