Road House (1989)
Director: Rowdy Herrington
Writer: R. Lance Hill and Hilary Henkin
Cinematographer: Dean Cundey
by Jon Cvack
“I use to fuck guys like you in prison" - Jimmy (Marshall Teague)
Possibly the greatest villainous final line during a fight sequence (yes, that specific), easily getting my vote on the AFI Top 100 Movie Quotes. It doesn’t just reveal that the character’s own sexuality, but essentially captures the entire theme of the film as an exceptionally homo-erotic story, told in a Western format. From the moment Dalton is approached by a new nightclub manager from a small western town, Tighman (played by Kevin Tighe, coincidentally), in possibly the most homoerotic scene of the movie (and thus prepping us for what’s to come), Dalton has his shirt off, giving himself some stitches after catching a blade during a bar brawl. The camera stays above his chest, suggesting he’s completely naked and Tighman keeps peeking down at his junk, stating that he thought Dalton would be ‘bigger’. We don’t understand why Dalton is willing to just up and leave a nice and booming urban club for a rural one in the middle of nowhere, but Tighman’s elevator eyes seem to help the case.
Road House is a modern day western. A lone man comes to town, having to protect a small town saloon while combatting against the local banditry which has strong-armed the entire town. If you were to replace the sports cars and big trucks with horses you’d have a movie in the classic style of The Westerner, A Fistful of Dollars, The Magnificent Seven, etc. And like many of those westerns, the women don’t really serve a purpose beyond complete subservience to the men.
I watched this film imagining the Reagan Moral Majority, Marlboro Men salivating over the life Dalton lives. He goes from gig to gig, practicing karate, smoking, cruising in his Mercedes, and making pretty good money. Yet with the strong layer of homoeroticism throughout this thing, I can’t help laughing over the amount of Real Men who were oblivious to the subtext and admired the story and characters. Men control the money, men fight and fuck each other, and women are just background. I think of all the Politicians who oppose LGBT rights and are later discovered to have had gay relations. This movie seems to offer a pretty good starting point for all that. It idealizes and objectifies the male figure. It makes it sexy and attractive. You feel that if everyone just got along and talked things out that they could just as easily fuck as fight.
In addition, the movie explores the heavy themes of totalitarian rule. Although there are mafia suggestions toward Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara) it seems the man is just a successful business man, who brought a lot of companies to the town and took a piece off the top for the services he provided. I never really understand why he burns down the hardware store, or sends a monster truck charging over a car lot (this also should be on a future AFI Top 100 Most Ridiculous Scenes of All Time, once created). I understand that the owners must have been giving him lip or refused to pay up, but he really seems to have gone off the deep end, which brings back the idea that it all starts once Dalton arrives, suggesting some type of repressed homosexual desires that are beginning to cause problems, which could mean that really the whole town is a bastion for repressed homosexuality. The women are there to make everyone feel like they’re doing the right things, but once the lap dances are over and the gratuitous breasts are put back in their shirts it’s fuck or fight time amongst the men.
BELOW: The classic scene with the classic quote
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