Road House (1989) (part 5 of 15)

Now it’s daytime at a used car dealership called Big ‘T’ Auto Sales. (No, not that Big T.) Inside an office is your typical used car salesman type—in fact, I have to wonder if this actor, whoever he is, plays anything besides used car salesman. The guy eats a grilled cheese as he watches, of all things, The Patty Duke Show. And I’m guessing that’s another joke I’m just not getting. This movie has a few of those.

The guy sees Dalton on his lot, checking out a big Buick. It might even be a great Buick, like this graffiti I saw once said. And some cursory research reveals that this is, in fact, a 1965 Buick Riviera.

The salesman runs out to greet Dalton, and the guy is strangely proud that the car actually runs. Dalton is particularly interested in the car’s mechanical headlight covers, and the salesman reaches inside the car to show them off. It looks like motorized headlight shields are quite the selling point, because Dalton simply lights a cigarette and says, “I’ll take it.” Wait; Don’t try to figure out the joke just yet. There’s more.

Caption contributed by Albert

I kinda thought the “T” would be bigger.

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Cut to Dalton down at a junkyard, loading tires into the trunk of the Buick. He gives an odd, effeminate, salute-like wave to the junkyard owner as he leaves. The junkyard owner, by the way, is possibly the oldest living human being on record, but I’m waiting for independent verification on that. He simply waves as Dalton drives off.

So, did you get it yet? See, Dalton’s about to work in a bar known for its rough clientele. The type that would seek revenge on a bouncer by smashing his headlights and slashing his tires. Therefore, whenever he’s working, Dalton makes sure to drive a beater instead of his prized Mercedes. And to assure that smashed headlights and slashed tires don’t complicate his life too much, he makes sure his beater has headlight covers, and buys extra tires at a discount price.

See? It’s funny, right? And it only took me like, seven viewings to finally figure all that out. That’s the hallmark of a fantastic joke, if I ever saw one. All I have to say is that these scenes involving Dalton buying and passing on beater cars—well, it’s a long, long way to go for a joke like that.

Lilting guitar music takes us to Dalton driving through the woods down a dirt road. He comes upon a rustic farmhouse, which might as well have a white picket fence around it. Wholesome is the word.

An old guy, who’s the typical Old Man Farmer stereotype (long white beard, overalls, work gloves) puts down a bale of hay when he sees Dalton drive up. Strangely, the old man is also wearing a white fedora; There’s also quite a lot of white fedora-wearing in this film.

Dalton has come to inquire about a room for rent, and the old man beckons him inside. And how exactly Dalton learned about this room is left as an exercise for the viewer. Let’s just say I doubt Grizzly Adams here is posting on Craigslist.

Caption contributed by Albert

Old MacDonald knows what you did last summer!

The Old Man takes Dalton up to an incredibly spacious loft. Why, Mr. Adams, who does your decorating? I’m about the last person to admire interior decorating, but this place is picture perfect, from the brass light fixtures, to the word burning stove, to the plush purple chairs, to the cobblestone walls, to the old and worn, but not too old and worn steamer trunk at the foot of the bed. And I’m not even going to talk about the big picture windows that open out onto a lake ringed with cypress trees. Suffice to say, this “old farmhouse” is far, far nicer than where I live right now. Hell, I think it’s nicer and more spacious than most sitcom characters’ apartments, which is saying a lot. Were the Extreme Makeover Home Edition guys already here, by any chance?

Caption contributed by Albert

“Well, this is a real step down from the loft I shared with Demi, but I guess it’ll do.”

Dalton happily surveys the room. But all is not placid and picturesque here, because the thumping of helicopter blades is soon heard. Dalton looks out and sees a helicopter passing over the large mansion across the lake. It flies over the Old Man’s farm, allowing for a pointless helicopter POV shot of Dalton and the Old Man standing in the window.

The helicopter totally freaks out the horses in the corral out front. Old Man is none too happy about this, and he and Dalton run outside to calm the horses. And if horses are anything like drunk guys who want to pay to cop a feel, Dalton should have no trouble at all getting them to chill out.

Then there’s a shot inside the helicopter, and the passenger, in a cream-colored suit, is none other than Ben Gazzara. Here he’s playing Brad Wesley, who will soon become Wo Fat to Dalton’s Steve McGarrett. I think you can actually see a dark violet aura of evil around him in this shot.

He smirks as the helicopter touches down back at the large mansion across the lake. Which means Brad Wesley just went completely out of his way to make this horse-spooking fly-by, and he did it just for kicks. In case you’re doubting this, the Old Man says to Dalton a moment later that, indeed, Wesley likes to spook his horses for fun.

As Wesley’s copter touches down, three goons of varying heights come out to greet Wesley. Unfortunately, we won’t get to know them just yet. Wesley flashes a self-satisfied evil smile at the Old Man, which somehow the Old Man is able to see from across the lake.

Caption contributed by Albert

Is he evil? Yes, he is.

The Old Man turns and has some colorful down-home dialogue with Dalton, where Dalton has to assure the Old Man that he won’t steal any horses. Dalton calls him “sir”, so the Old Man says the following in the way of an introduction.

Old Man: Calling me “sir” is like puttin’ an elevator in an outhouse. [?] Don’t belong. I’m Emmet.

So folksy and down-home, huh? By the way, the actor’s name is, no joke, Sunshine Parker (or as the movie credits him, “Sunshine” Parker, quotes and all), which should tell you all you need to know about him right there.

Cut to the helicopter taking off. Meaning, I think, that it’s not Wesley’s helicopter? Otherwise, why wouldn’t it just stay parked behind Wesley’s mansion? Was he just hitching a ride from the pilot? Or does he only rent the thing out to bug Emmet’s horses? So far, he’s not shaping up to be much of an intimidating nemesis for Dalton.

Emmet goes back to baling hay, and… Okay, now wait one damn minute. When Dalton drove up, Emmet was moving a bale of hay from a spot over by the wall, and putting it on top of a pile of other bales. And now, he’s moving a bale of hay off the pile, and putting it back over by the wall! What the hell? So all Emmet does all day is move bales of hay from one side of his barn to the other?

Dalton abruptly says he’ll take the room. Emmet says nobody else wanted this gorgeous “room”—which you can’t even really call a room, because it’s a complete living space unto itself—because it has “no phone, no television, no conditioned air,” etc. But Dalton jokes that Emmet was just “too persuasive”.

Then Emmet strikes yet another down-home, folksy, neighbor-helpin’-neighbor chord where he says he doesn’t really want to charge Dalton rent, but he has to charge him something, or else “the Presbyterians ’round here are likely to pray for my ruination!” I don’t know much about the Presbyterian Church, but is giving away a room really some kind of mortal sin? Are there roving mobs of Presbyterians that will torch your property if you take on permanent houseguests?

Emmet begrudgingly rents the room to Dalton for—are you ready for this?—$100 a month. That settles it: Emmet’s a drug dealer. He’s not getting any money for the room, and he sure as hell is not making money from moving bales of hay from one side of his barn to the other. My personal suspicion is that his farm is really a front for a meth lab. I can’t prove it, but there is some evidence later in the film to suggest this is the case.

Emmet asks, “Can you afford that?” He’s getting $500 a night, so I think Dalton is good for it. There’s some knowing humor here where Dalton accepts these terms, simply to get Emmet “in the good graces of the church”. Whatever. Can we just get back to the Double Deuce and more ass kicking, already?

And hey, we’re there! Tilghman is having an all-employee meeting, which seems about as dull as most all-employee meetings in corporate America. He unveils the blueprints for what he calls the “new Double Deuce”, and to assure his dream takes form, he’s “hired the best damn cooler in the business!”

Yeah, that’s right. Dalton is known throughout the entire bouncing industry as the best bouncer there is. Hey, if someone can be the best damn cat burglar in the world, anything’s possible.

Dalton sits nearby, smoking a cigarette, now clad all in black. Tilghman introduces Dalton and announces he’s now in charge. Strangely, he introduces Dalton without revealing his first name, if indeed he has one. Hell, at this point, we don’t even know if Dalton is his first or last name. But that’ll be cleared up real soon.

Dalton takes the floor, smiling. Then in a move that is admittedly pretty badass, he instantly fires Captain Morgan, saying he “doesn’t have the right temperament for the trade.” That trade, I should remind you, is being a bouncer. If you don’t have the right temperament for shoving people around, there’s not much hope for you.

Captain Morgan doesn’t take the news lying down. Tilghman has Morgan’s last paycheck in his hand, and Morgan angrily snatches it away. He then calls Dalton out as a “dead man”, and stomps out. Hey, wait! Don’t go! We still need to go over your COBRA plan!

Caption contributed by Albert

“There better be a damn good severance package in this envelope, or your ass is grass.”

Next up on Dalton’s Day of Downsizing is the drug-dealing waitress. He gives her the axe just as abruptly, and when we cut to her, oh man, we see that Jeff Healey has been roped into attending this all-employee meeting, too. And he’s wearing a god-awful Hawaiian shirt. Who dresses this poor kid? Man, can you imagine becoming a rock star guitar god, then finding out you actually had to go to all sorts of stupid corporate meetings and Christmas parties at your place of work? That would really suck big time.

Anyway, it seems Dalton doesn’t approve of the waitress’ little side business. Drug Dealer Chick, who somehow never gets a name in this scene, gets her last paycheck from Tilghman. She deliberately bumps into Dalton on the way out, practically smacking him with her boob. That’ll learn him!

And now comes a truly historic speech, wherein Dalton rallies the bouncers to his cause. Remember that crap about going once more unto the breech? Or that Charge of the Light Brigade shit? They don’t hold a candle to this monologue. This is truly an amazing speech, not for espousing a terribly deep philosophy, but for just being.

Dalton: I’m telling you straight. It’s my way or the highway. So anybody who wants to walk, do it now.


Dalton: Alright. People who really want to have a good time won’t come to a slaughterhouse. And we’ve got entirely too many troublemakers here. Too many forty year old adolescents, felons, power drinkers, and trustees of modern chemistry. It’s going to change.

Hey, don’t knock power drinking until you’ve tried it. Also, don’t knock being a forty year old adolescent; I hope to get there someday.

Steve’s Buddy pipes up. He says that sounds all fine and good, but the guys who cause trouble are sometimes too big for them to handle. So what should they do in that situation, pray tell, Sensei Swayze?

Dalton: Don’t worry about it. All you have to do is follow three simple rules.

Oh boy, this is gonna be good. Okay, so here are the Three Simple Rules to Being a Great Bouncer, as told to Dalton by God. I’d like to examine these one by one, if I may.

One: Never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected.

Surely, always good advice, especially when watching this movie. Never underestimate what kind of insanity a director can throw at you.

Two: Take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Huh? What are we trying to do here, save on furniture bills? Oh, yeah, right. We are.

And three: Do not talk about the Double Deuce.

Okay, just kidding on that last one. Rule number three is actually:

Be nice.

Fat Bouncer: Come on!
Dalton: If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker, I want you to be nice.
Fat Bouncer: Ohhh-kaaay!
Dalton: 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.
Steve: Uh-huh. Bein’ called a cocksucker i’int personal?
Dalton: No. It’s two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response. [!!]

Just like “road” and “house”. Prescribed to bad movie fans the world over!

Oh man, I’m sorry for just straight out transcribing dialogue from the movie, but this is cinematic gold. Why am I recapping this movie, again? It’s a masterpiece.

Caption contributed by Albert

Dalton pitches his idea for a new book, Chicken Soup for the Cooler’s Soul.

And it gets better.

Steve: An’ what if somebody calls my momma a whore?
Dalton: Is she?

Oh shit, that was great. I have no idea what the point of that random insult was, but it sure was brilliant. Steve silently seethes, but yet continues to sit there. I guess he’s sticking around to see if there’s cake afterwards. And then comes the capper:

Dalton: I want you to be nice… until it’s time to not be nice.
Random bouncer: Well, how are we s’posed to know when that is?
Dalton: You won’t. I’ll let you know. You are the bouncers. I am the cooler. All you have to do is watch my back, and each other’s. And take out the trash.

Did you just get chills? I sure did. All I know is, if my company’s all-employee meetings were anything like this, I would actually go to them. Now let’s take out the trash!

Caption contributed by Albert

“Dammit, Momma’s been advertising her escort services on the web again! You really hit a nerve, Dalton!”

And with that, it’s off to Dalton’s first night at the Double Deuce, the proving ground where he will finally show his mettle. I wonder if any sort of fight will break out on his first night. Wouldn’t that be crazy?

Multi-Part Article: Road House (1989)

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