Sep 19, 2016
Road House (1989) (part 7 of 15)
Now Dalton is sitting on the hood of his car outside of Red’s Auto Parts, a store that looks mostly like a façade on an old Western set in Pioneertown. (Indeed, on the commentary track, Rowdy confirms that the exterior of Red’s Auto Parts consists of two walls, and nothing else.) A lime green pickup arrives, and out steps Red, a genial old man with a white beard and a mesh cap with the U-Haul logo. I guess he really digs U-Haul, even more than the nearest pro sports team. Go Wizards!
Dalton has come to repair the thrashing that his car got the other night at the bar. Red says a new windshield would cost more than the car, but Dalton loves the car too much, so he orders a new windshield.
And a reverse angle shows that Red’s Auto Parts is… just on the other side of the parking lot from the Double Deuce. Talk about convenient! Get your car trashed, and repaired, all in the same parking lot! It’s one-stop shopping! For coolers, anyway.
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They head inside so Dalton can buy a new antenna. Red says he’s already heard of Dalton and his new position at the Double Deuce. He jokingly asks if Dalton would like to “put in a standing order”. And then Red takes off his cap, revealing why they call him Red. That’s all the evidence I need, by the way. I don’t need to see if the carpet matches the drapes.
Dalton says he doesn’t plan on being in town long. Red says he thought the same thing, too, when he originally came to this magical wonderland known as Jasper. But something changed all that.
Red: I got married to an ugly woman. [?] Don’t ever do that, it just takes the energy right out of you. She left me, though. Found somebody even uglier’n she was. That’s life. Who can explain it?
Wow, I think Dalton has found home. Everybody here is so Zen, I can’t fucking believe it. And up until now, I always thought marrying an ugly woman was the key to being happy for the rest of my life. Thankfully, Red has set me straight.
Oh, and watch closely when Red is talking about the ugly woman. You can actually see someone handing him the antenna through the shelves.
Alas, the jovial times of Red and Dalton come to an end when the door swings open, and in walks Brad Wesley (again wearing a white fedora) and one of his goons. And this goon, like so many people in this town, is a big fan of denim.
I’d point out that Wesley and Dalton were driving in completely opposite directions just a few minutes ago—remember their near-collision?—but perhaps Dalton’s ego is large enough to create some kind of space-warping singularity where all roads lead to him.
Wesley and Red exchange tense looks, and then Dalton and Wesley finally shake hands and meet face to face for the first time. His voice dripping with irony, Wesley wishes Dalton the best of luck in cleaning up the “bad element” at the Double Deuce. Dalton leaves, but on the way out ends up in a stare-off with the Denim-Loving Goon. The guy has a mullet of his own, of course, and upon closer inspection, he has a crucifix earring in his left ear. Draw your own conclusions about his sexual orientation. (And then discover all your conclusions are absolutely right by the end of the movie.)
Once Dalton’s gone, Wesley and Red exchange some pleasantries. Which you can tell are not all that pleasant for Red. For him, they’re unpleasantries. But before we can find out what that’s all about, the movie cuts away.
And as it turns out, Red is being played by a guy named Red in real life. Namely, Red West, who worked as a bodyguard for Elvis Presley in the ’60s, and was part of the so-called “Memphis Mafia”. And here he is, having to deal with the infamous “Jasper Mafia”. The irony!
Now we’re back with Old Man Emmet in his barn, who’s pulling the cover off Dalton’s Mercedes. He stares at it wide-eyed. Yes, he too has learned that this is the one case where that “My Other Car is a Mercedes” bumper sticker is no joke.
And then he steps out of the barn, and sees Dalton himself, down by the edge of the lake. And in a genius high point for this film, Dalton is wearing his famous white pants, no shirt, and… he’s doing various tai chi poses.
Believe it. He’s doing cranes and butterflies, and waxing on and off, and doing all sorts of shit all over the place. As Rowdy reveals on the commentary, “Patrick studied tai chi for this scene.” He then adds, for little reason, “He is the Zen bouncer.” And the only thing I find the least bit surprising about this scene is that Patrick Swayze didn’t already know tai chi.
An ATV three-wheeler pulls up on the opposite side of the lake. Of course it’s Brad Wesley, taking a gander at Dalton’s moves. He raises his eyebrows and gives a “he so crazy!” head wag. Yeah. He’s the guy who runs people off the road while listening to the Crew Cuts, and Dalton is the one who’s crazy.
More tai chi. Dalton pushes the invisible wall. There’s a funny shot of Emmet looking just as befuddled as the rest of us. And then, just like that, it’s back to the Double Deuce. So I guess whatever the hell that scene was about has been clearly established.
There’s a close up of Healey’s hand sliding across the frets, and he rocks out to a song I can’t identify. Could it be a Healey original? And it looks like things are already changing for the better, because the chicken wire is now gone. And the crowd dancing in front of the stage is looking a lot more clean and orderly. By which I mean, they’re all wearing shirts.
Dalton heads up to Tilghman’s office, and by the big white blotches on the walls that are oh so very subtle, we can see that they’re already starting to remodel the place. Me, I’m a little bummed. Say what you want, but the plywood interiors definitely had a certain je ne sais quoi.
Dalton steps into Tilghman’s office, and sees a big sweaty guy, who’s got on a mesh cap with the Caterpillar CAT logo, and for some reason he’s wearing both suspenders and a belt. Also here is Pat, the infamous skimming bartender. Not only that, but we also have on hand a guy in a sport coat, who has a deeper voice than Unicron. Deep Voice Guy informs Dalton that Tilghman has “changed his mind” about firing Pat.
It turns out that Brad Wesley supplies Tilghman with all his alcohol. Also, Brad Wesley is Pat the Skimmer’s uncle, so Tilghman has been strong-armed into hiring him back. Pat is pleased, but apparently not pleased enough, because he pulls out a gigantic hunting knife. Now, see? Why wouldn’t you want this guy on the payroll?
Pat takes a few swipes at Dalton, but Dalton deftly dodges the blade, and assumes a tai chi pose. Pat taunts Dalton, saying he’s afraid to fight, even going so far as to call him “chicken dick”. Chicken dick, moose lips… according to drunk guys, Dalton’s body is a veritable animal kingdom.
Suddenly, Dalton breaks out of his tai chi pose, grabs Pat’s arm, and punches him in the face. Amusingly, you can see the fake blood has already been applied to Pat’s face before Dalton even punches him. Or maybe Dalton is doing like, some Darth Vader evil mind shit, and caused Pat’s nose to spontaneously bleed. I warned you he might be a Jedi, didn’t I?
As Pat clutches at his face, Dalton delivers a roundhouse kick to his back. This sends Pat flying through the window of Tilghman’s office. Whoa. Destroy the place, why don’t you? Hey, it’s fine. Just tack that onto the remodeling bill.
Several of the Double Deuce bouncers rush towards the office as another brawl breaks out. Big Sweaty CAT Guy practically destroys Tilghman, and congratulations on dominating a guy twenty years older than you, bud.
Meanwhile, Dalton takes on Deep Voice Guy. Sweaty CAT Guy takes advantage of Dalton’s preoccupation, and pulls out his own blade. He succeeds in slashing Dalton across the ribs.
An injured Dalton tries to take on both guys, but ends up tumbling out of the broken office window. He takes Deep Voice Guy with him, and after a brief scuffle on the floor of the Double Deuce, Dalton subdues his opponent. But there’s a torrent of dark red blood gushing down the side of Dalton’s shirt, which can’t be good news.
Meanwhile, two bouncers enter the office and beat the crap out of Sweaty CAT Guy. Eventually, they’re escorting a dazed Sweaty CAT Guy and Deep Voice Guy out of the bar. I believe they are now, as Dalton would say, taking out the trash. Dalton, still bleeding profusely, limps his way out of the bar.
Cut to a hospital. Seriously, a hospital. In this movie. I didn’t think hospitals even existed in Road House World. And it’s not even the sort of small, cash-strapped hospital you’d expect to see in a one-stoplight town. It’s a spacious, clean, well-staffed hospital more appropriate for a large metropolitan area.
A doctor walks down a corridor. She’s a lady doctor, and pretty obviously hotter than any doctor you’ve ever had in your life. But, look at her! She’s got big glasses! And her hair is in a tightly braided ponytail! She can’t be hot!
She enters an examination room, where Dalton is up on the table. She introduces herself as Dr. Clay and looks at his wound. She asks where he got it, and his answer is, “Natural causes.” I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, even in the warped world of this film.
And then comes one of those moments that I can’t believe I even saw. I can’t believe I’m able to process it and relate it to you. Because Dalton actually has a folder with him containing his own entire medical history [!!], which he hands over to the doctor. And he keeps it updated, too, because Dr. Clay sees that he’s a bouncer at the Double Deuce. I mean, really? Elaine on Seinfeld was trying to escape the perpetuity of her medical records. And this guy proudly carries them around! And updates them weekly! This might be the first film I’ve ever seen that makes me constantly look around to make sure I’m not on hidden camera.
Dr. Clay is already well aware of the Double Deuce, because of all the “business” they send her way. She also finds it quite adorable when Dalton promises to “change all that”.
She glances over his chart, which contains the standard, generic body drawings, and they’re all marked up with Dalton’s various wounds. Are we really supposed to believe Dalton himself drew up these diagrams, meticulously noting all of his own wounds, making it look like there’s more railroad track laid across his body than all of the Northeast Corridor?
And if you look closely at his medical chart in freeze-frame, it turns out Dalton has a first name, after all. Are you ready? It’s… James. I’m pretty sure we weren’t actually meant to see that, because that’s got to be the letdown of the century. “James”?
Okay, to be fair, I’m trying to think of a name that wouldn’t be a letdown, and I can’t come up with anything. Actually, I think the only first name that could have worked was “Dalton”. Dalton Dalton! That would have kicked ass!
Dr. Clay puts on gloves, telling Dalton that he can now add “9 staples” to his “dossier of 31 broken bones, 2 bullet wounds, 9 puncture wounds, and 4 stainless steel screws”. Holy shit. She memorized all that just from briefly glancing at his chart? What medical school did she go to? And wow, Dalton was shot twice, too. And you just know he reached in and pulled out those bullets himself. You know this, man.
She picks up a syringe to give him a local anesthetic, but he quickly turns it down, leading to this incredible, amazing, senses-shattering exchange.
Dr. Clay: Do you enjoy pain?
Dalton: Pain don’t hurt.
Dalton: Pain don’t hurt.
Let’s contemplate this for a moment, shall we? Pain, by its very definition, is something that hurts. So if pain don’t hurt, wouldn’t it cease to be called “pain”? And what would you call the stuff that actually does hurt? It’s amazing, really. With just three simple, one-syllable words, Dalton has created a koan even more profound than that stuff about one hand clapping.
(And would you believe that on the commentary track, while all this senses-shattering is going on, Rowdy is going on and on about all the “primary colors” he used in the costuming and set design? Allow me to sum up his commentary in a word: Zzzzzz.)
Clay buries a medical stapler in his side. He gives the barest of flinches as the staples pierce his flesh. She asks why he carries around his medical records, and he says it “saves time”. Yeah, because how else would your doctor be able to instantly catalog all 46 of your injuries? Oh, wait. I guess it’s 47 now. Oh my god! The screenwriter went to Pomona College with Brannon Braga! Or something!
Also in his medical folder, oddly, is information about where Dalton got his college degree. I have no idea why his file would contain this level of detail, but it turns out he has a degree from NYU. In philosophy. What surprises me less, the tai chi or the philosophy degree?
Dr. Clay asks about his specific “discipline” of philosophy, and he says he studied “man’s search for faith. That sort of… shit.” Ah, yes. The Shit Doctrine. I believe Immanuel Kant was the father of that particular movement. The Critique of Pure Shit, and so forth.
Dalton gives a sheepish look, like he’s thinking that cursing in front of her wasn’t such a great idea, but Dr. Clay just smiles. Wow, move to the head of the class, Young Mr. Dalton. Sweet talk will get you very far.
Their banter continues on in this vein, with none of it revealing the slightest bit about either one of them. But the instant attraction between them is obvious, and hey, what better time to flirt than when you’re stapling up someone’s knife wound? She admires the stitch work on his shoulder, and he says, “Thank you!” Yuk yuk, now she knows he did it himself. You’d think this also might make a bad first impression, but Clay just smiles again.
She asks if he ever wins a fight, which sets him up to deliver this delicate morsel of wisdom: “Nobody ever wins a fight.” Oooh. Mind. Officially. Blown. Well, my search for faith and that sort of shit has just ended. I’m now a firm believer in Daltonism.
He invites her to stop by the Double Deuce sometime, to which she just kind of shrugs. Yeah, I suppose she doesn’t need to witness brutal injuries in her off-hours, too. And then, finally, the climax to this dull scene comes with a continuation of this movie’s ever-so-popular running gag.
Dr. Clay: You know, for that line of work, I thought you’d be bigger.
Dalton: Gee, I’ve never heard that before.
Dalton: Gee, I’ve never heard that before.
I don’t know. I think the writer just got stuck every few scenes, and had to come up with a punch line, so he just put the “thought you’d be bigger” thing in there. Never mind that it’s the same punch line each time. Or that it’s not a particularly funny punch line. I guess it’s like Chekhov tossing bears into all of his plays whenever he got writer’s block.
No, don’t worry. No bears will be showing up later. No live ones, anyway. That level of insanity is reserved for episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger. Not even Road House would dare to go there.