Sunday, September 25, 2016

Road House (1989) and Road House 2: Last Call (2006)

There is no such thing as a perfect movie.  No movie can exist without a single flaw.  That is impossible.  Between all of the people involved in creating entertainment, someone will mess up and it will be overlooked.  Human error is a definite thing and can be impossible to fix.  Yet there are movies that come so close to perfection to be considered perfect.  People will look at a movie and say that it is perfect when, in reality, it has a few cinematic bumps and bruises.  It is a matter of perspective.

You might be thinking that perfect movies have to be great.  Remember the word from before: perspective.  Perfect great movies and perfect bad movies both exist.  There can be perfect movies for different moods or occasions.  The Internship is a perfect background movie.  You can turn it on while doing something else and enjoy the bits and pieces you see during the other activity.  It is not a great movie, but it is perfect for that situation.  Many other movies are the same way.  They might not be technically proficient, but they manage to bring a perfect quality through the sum of their parts.

One such movie that could be considered perfect is Road House.  This 1989 action movie featured Patrick Swayze as cooler Dalton, a man tasked with cleaning up violent bars and turning them into respected establishments.  He was hired to help the Double Deuce and found out that the local town was being held hostage by Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara).  The battle between these two men would change the lives of each and every person in the area.

Few movies can be compared to Road House.  It had a personality that was completely its own.  The characters, the dialogue, and the way that the story escalated were a perfect encapsulation of something that doesn’t tend to be represented in film.  Though it tells a typical action story of (possibly crazy) good guy versus bad guy, the way it told the story brought a unique quality that has been unmatched since.

Seventeen years after the release of Road House, a sequel was released.  Road House 2: Last Call saw Dalton’s son Shane Tanner (Johnathan Schaech) taking care of a bar called The Black Pelican.  The story was completely different, however.  Shane Tanner was a DEA agent who had just finished a big case.  He received word that his uncle Nate (Will Patton) had been put in the hospital.  He returned home to take care of Nate’s bar, which was desired by Wild Bill (Jake Busey) because of its location being prime real estate for drug running.  Action ensued.

More than just the story was different between the two Road House movies.  The sequel lost the perfection of the original.  There are many reasons that I consider Road House to be perfect.  Throughout this post, I will compare and contrast some details as they pertain to both the original and the sequel.  There are many ways that the sequel went wrong when continuing the franchise, and they are good indicators of why there has been no talk of another sequel (though there have been talks of a remake).

The Lead Actor
One of the most important decisions is who to cast in the lead role of a movie.  Or in the case of an ensemble, the key is finding the right group of people to work together.  The lead role in Road House was Dalton and Patrick Swayze stepped up to play the character better than anyone else could have.  He wasn’t the most intimidating looking person, but there was a tough interior that made him a threat.  The character tried to stay away from violence.  That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t tough.  He could kick ass with the best of them, even going so far as to have rumours spread about his possibly ripping someone’s throat out.  A running gag in the movie is that they thought he would be bigger.  Size wasn’t all that mattered.

The presence brought to the character was on the shoulders of Patrick Swayze.  He had to bring the dark undercurrent of the character while keeping him in line with the last of his three rules, which was being nice.  Much of the role came from Swayze himself.  He did his own stunts.  The fights were all Patrick Swayze.  There were injuries, there was pain, and there was a lot of effort to make his character feel real.  Between his personality and his physicality, he made a character that would be remembered for decades.

Road House 2: Last Call lacked that memorable lead performance.  In fact, Shane Tanner was the least interesting performance in the movie.  The character didn’t have the same mystery, and wasn’t backed by the same dedication to a role.  Johnathan Schaech brought nothing to make it memorable.  He didn’t have the acting talent or the charisma that Patrick Swayze could bring, which made it feel like the main character could have been anybody.  The movie could have been part of a different franchise because the lead character didn’t feel like a Road House character.

Character Realization
In order to better bring an audience into a movie’s story, it is good to give them investment in characters outside of the lead.  The supporting characters, no matter how big or small, can play a large part in world building.  The better built, the more likely an audience is to immerse themselves in it.  If only the main character and the antagonist feel fully formed, the rest of the world feels unrealized.  Real people populating a real world can help with stakes.  It can also help with the moments between scenes of conflict.

Fully formed characters are integral to Road House.  Each and every character feels like they have a background.  They get a story, whether written into the movie in detail or given little attention.  Of course, Dalton and Wesley were the main characters and had the most time to be fleshed out.  Yet small characters, such as the minor bouncers that worked at the Double Deuce, got to grow from being thugs to well mannered, polite gentlemen who fought if needed.  They improved at their job, mostly in the background.  The townspeople were the same way.  Bits and pieces of their lives were shown as Wesley held their livelihoods hostage.  By the end, they grew enough to stand up for themselves.  Everyone in the movie grew in their own way.

This growth and depth didn’t exist in the sequel.  The main character had a story, as did the bad guy, the bad guy’s boss, the good guy’s uncle, and the love interest.  Those five core characters felt like characters.  The problem was that there were no other fully formed characters in Road House 2: Last Call.  Most notable were the bouncers who didn’t have any development.  Instead of growing from thuggish brawlers into composed defenders, they were already serviceable at their jobs.  They didn’t need to be taught anything since they knew what they were doing.  There was no minor character growth.

The Bar
If you’re making a movie where the title is a place, that place better be a character in the movie.  In movies like The World’s End, or Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, the location is like an old friend that the main characters are trying to meet up with after a long absence.  Then there are the other movies such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where the location is ever present and plays a large role in the story.  Road House is in this second category.

The Double Deuce was as important to Road House as Dalton was.  It went through the biggest change.  The bar started out as a dirty place, filled with sex, drugs, and violence.  Dalton transformed it into something friendlier and safer.  Its reputation was cleaned up.  People no longer worried about their well-being when they went there.  The other side of a fully formed location is that it allows the audience to feel as though they know the place.  The Double Deuce needed to feel like a real bar with an actual layout.  There were different areas in the bar and you knew where they were.  There was the bar, the main floor, the stage, the office, and the pool table area.  It was easy to remember, you always had an idea of where the action was taking place, and most of all, it felt real.  It was a bar/club that you could believe was popular.

Road House 2: Last Call took a different approach to the bar.  The Black Pelican had no real sense of geography.  There were no wide shots showing multiple areas within the location.  There were some tables.  There was a bar.  There was a kitchen.  Yet, you wouldn’t be able to tell where any of them were in relation to the other areas.  It was a muddled mess of a location that never felt like a character.  It felt like a bargaining chip.  The bad guys wanted to take it from the good guys.  The movie was no longer about life in the bar.  It was about using the bar for drug running.  There was no reason for it to be a road house.

Road House and Road House 2: Last Call are two movies within the same franchise that feel completely separate.  Sure, the sequel has ties to the original in terms of references, but it doesn’t feel like it needed to be in the franchise.  It lost the solid storytelling of the original and lacked the depth of the performances, characters, and the bar.  It took what was a unique glimpse into a world not typically portrayed in movies and lost the charm.  Instead of feeling special, it felt like a lesser version of a standard action movie.  It felt like a movie that Jason Statham would make, without Jason Statham putting his stamp on it.  It felt nothing like Road House.

Though the sequel to Road House might not be great, I still believe that the first is a perfect movie.  It took the time and put the effort in to be more than what you might expect.  The writer and director knew what they wanted to make.  They knew how to bring their vision to life.  Everything was their vision, perfectly brought to an audience.  They made a perfect movie, regardless of flaws.  A perfect movie isn’t a flawless movie.  It is a movie that is perfect in its own way.
Here are a lot of notes, and I mean a lot:

  • First off, this is week 200.  Here’s a post I wrote about Twilight nearly 4 years ago.  It is unedited, and I might say some stupid stuff.
  • Now onto the actors.  Julie Michaels made her third appearance in the Sunday “Bad” Movies with Road House.  She was also in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and Batman & Robin.
  • Another third timer was Ritchie Montgomery who was in Playing for Keeps and Monster in the Closet.
  • The final third time appearance came from Jake Busey.  He was in Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3 and Nazis at the Center of the Earth.
  • There were a lot of people making their second appearances this week.  John Doe had a role in Road House.  He also had a role in Torque.
  • Chino ‘Fats’ Williams showed up in Road House, after being in Aces: Iron Eagle III.
  • The great Sam Elliott was in Frogs before appearing in Road House.
  • Bill Dunnam was another actor making a second appearance.  He was previously in Top Dog.
  • Travis McKenna and John William Young were both in Road House and Hamburger: The Motion Picture.
  • Road House 2: Last Call wasn’t the first time we saw Ellen Hollman.  She was in Surf School.
  • Richard Norton returned to the Sunday “Bad” Movies with Road House 2: Last Call after appearing in Gymkata.
  • Finally, there was Johnathon Schaech, the star of Road House 2: Last Call, who was also in The Legend of Hercules.
  • Have you seen Road House or Road House 2: Last Call?  Do you think any movies are perfect?  Do you think I was writing bullshit throughout this entire post? Let me know in the comments.
  • The comments are a good place to let me know about movies I should watch for future weeks.  Either there, or you can find me on Twitter and let me know.  I’m always looking for more movies to seek out.
  • Sometimes I share clips of the bad movies I watch on snapchat.  You can find me there by looking up jurassicgriffin.
  • Next week’s movie is going to be kicking off the October horror marathon.  It’s a Japanese horror movie called DeathTube, which felt a lot like their take on the Saw franchise.  It was interesting, but I’ll let you know more about it next time.

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