Will 500 People Watch the Original ‘Road House’ With Us at the Byrd Theatre on July 16th?


“Pain don’t hurt.” – Dalton, refusing anesthetic while getting stitched up after a knife fight in the Double Deuce.

There was a time in the 1980s when everything was on the table. This included making a little movie called Road House. A film about a legendary bar-room bouncer with a degree in philosophy from NYU who single handily cleans up corruption in Jasper, Missouri. Hollywood executives everywhere rejoiced. There was no room for discussion, no debate among producers, no focus groups or test audiences, just an unwavering belief that this Patrick Swayze film would likely be the highest cultural achievement in the history of cinema.

And you know what, they were right. From the time the first motion picture was released in Leeds, England in 1888, no film so adequately captured the indomitable spirit of mankind quite like Road House did. But let’s get serious, because we’re talking about Road House, which we’ll be showing on July 16 at 7pm at the majestic Byrd Theatre in Carytown as part of our Summer of Swayze film series to help raise funds for the theatre’s ongoing restoration.

*Get your ticket pre-sales, here.

The plot of Road House is just as nuanced as it is layered: A jacked Swayze arrives in small-town America, and his mere presence alone, precipitates a total breakdown of law and order — chaos is the outcome. Some other stuff obviously happens, which we’ll get to in a minute, but for those unfamiliar with Swayze’s timeline this film was released just after Dirty Dancing and right before Ghost and Point Break. Universally panned by critics, Roger Ebert even went so far as to say, “Road House is the kind of movie that leaves reality so far behind that you have to accept it on its own terms… This is not a good movie.” 

Ebert was right in one respect. This is not a good movie, this is a GREAT movie, and we’re here to tell you why. At its core, Road House, is an archetypical Western that was re-imagined to satisfy the overindulged fantasies of ‘anything goes’ 1980s cinema. When Swayze’s character Dalton (a loner with no first or last name) arrives in Jasper, he is armed with nothing but his karate and the grit and tenacity to save the townsfolk from an archvillain and his team of irascible goons — one of which is played by John Doe from the legendary punk band X. Not dissimilar from other Westerns, the arch villain, Brad Wesley, is a local businessman whose ‘Jasper Improvement Society’ bleeds the town dry — literally and figuratively. 

Dalton’s quest starts at the Double Deuce, the roughest honky-tonk on either side of the Mississippi — “a real slaughterhouse.” After delivering a blistering monologue (see above) in which he tells WWE’s Terry Funk that he doesn’t have “the right temperament for the trade,” he has to deploy his lethal karate skills as the resident ‘cooler’ or head bouncer to clean up the bar. But as he soon realizes, the cleaner the bar, the dirtier the job. Add a love interest that provokes a murderous rampage by archvillain, Brad Wesley, and you have a series of events that reshaped modern scriptwriting with such ruminative dialogue as, “How ’bout we go back to my place and get nipple to nipple,” “Consider it severance pay, take the train,” “I used to fuck guys like you in prison,” and of course, “I thought you’d be bigger.'”

You should be able to piece together the rest of the plot on your own, but rest easy — for new comers to the Road House universe —almost ever scene is bursting with explosive edge-of-your-seat action, knife fights, steamy sex, and monster trucks. Not to mention Sam Elliot, playing Swayze’s mentor, Wade Garett, whose arrival at the Double Deuce cranks-up the action to the point where you might need to slap yourself in the face just to make sure you’re not hallucinating this level of badassery.

Road House has stayed a beloved part of the cinematic zeitgeist for a simple reason: Every new generation that stumbles upon this film recognizes the unique blend of action and absurdity is non-replicable; many have tried, but most have failed (including the Jake Gyllenhaal re-make). Some of the love for Road House is ironic love, but on the other end, it is the total commitment Swayze brought to the role of Dalton. There was no wryness in his performance, no self-awareness as to how completely over-the-top this film was going to be, just an actor in his prime fully embracing the character he was cast to play. This is why Road House has cemented its legacy as one of the most beloved cult films in existence (aided in no small part by a flawless throat rip).

For those who have only seen the remake, this is your chance to see the original on the big screen and measure the distance between the two. We’re curious to hear your thoughts or as Dalton would say, “Be nice, until it’s time to not be nice.” 

Bring 500 of your friends, grab some beers at the concession stand, and come support classic cinema at The Byrd on July 16th. We’re also running Swayze theme’d drink specials at New York Deli all night. Come meet up with us for a happy hour starting at 6pm, followed by a rendezvous at the roof bar after the screening. We want to hang out and talk Road House.

Summer of Swayze by RVA Magazine 2024

See you there Richmond. 

Summer of Swayze by RVA Magazine 2024 4


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RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.

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