The Double Deuce is a sleazy music bar in the small town of Jasper, Missouri — “The kind of place where they sweep up the eyeballs after closing”. The owner, tired of his joint being wrecked by muscle-bound “power drinkers” and provocative bimbos, hires the best bouncer in the business (Patrick Swayze) to cool things down.
Patrick Swayze plays Dalton, a lean and laconic martial arts expert who always wins and has an economical way with words: “It’s my way or the highway”. Swayze soon finds himself at odds with bad guy Gazzara who runs the town, while his first serious wound allows him to fall for Kelly Lynch, the beautiful doctor at the local hospital. What follows is a great deal of fighting, a stand up sex scene which confirms Patrick as the Pelvis of the 80s and some extra large helpings of R&B rock from The Jeff Healey Band, safely corralled on stage behind a bottle-proof metal screen.
Presenting a larger than life world of threats and confrontations where violence is a first response and timing is everything, the film’s most engaging feature is a complete lack of reality: Jasper only exists to provide a succession of tough customers and a few weak townsfolk for Gazzara to be nasty to. It’s the slightest of plots but it’s wittily written and performed, and the stylish brawling is as good as anything out of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Healey’s pounding music provides the perfect accompaniment, while Swayze is much more than merely impressive. Here he doesn’t so much act as deliver “presence” in the traditional tough-guy style of the likes of Burt Lancaster. Watch him leaning against the bar, cigarette in mouth, reading trouble and then springing elegantly into action and you’ve got not only Bruce Lee and Gene Kelly combined, but also the very essence of screen charisma. A loud, gutsy and subtly amusing movie, Roadhouse delivers on every level.
An immensely enjoyable slice of romanticised fisticuffs, this is a Western in every respect except the stetsons and six guns.