Netflix, 80’s Nostalgia, and the Precise Moment when the Movie “Road House” Takes a Turn

Lately, there have been a great many movies appearing on Netflix that originally came out in the 1980’s: Fletch. Major League. The Golden Child. And it’s hard to not watch them again, mostly for the nostalgia value. Even though some of the films don’t quite hold to my memory of them, seeing them again is fun. It’s like seeing an old friend, or driving down a street where you used to live – a comfortable thing. A familiar thing.

Many of these movies I remember seeing on cable, growing up. And because they got replayed over and over again, I ended up watching them… over and over again.

I fail to retain things like names and birthdays, but if you start into Chevy Chase’s speech for Fred (“the Dorf”) Dorman, well… I’ll immediately be able to finish his lines like I suddenly turned into Rain Man.

So last night I’m watching Road House, the movie where Patrick Swayze plays “Dalton,” a rough and tumble bouncer hired to clean up a troubled bar.

Warning: Some spoilers below, but… come on. This movie is 26 years old.

Dalton trains the inexperienced staff, and slowly makes the bar a less violent place (through a series of bar fights). These fight scenes are arguably what anyone who originally saw the film remembers, and returns for.

As the movie progresses, Dalton incurs the wrath of Brad Wesley, the rich guy who has the whole town in a stranglehold, and who also employs his own set of henchmen fighters. Eventually, Wesley destroys several local businesses – many through arson.

Road House, I’ve realized, is actually two very different movies. For the first hour and a half, it’s your classic 80’s action film. And then, it changes into a very different film.

During the fight scene between Dalton and Jimmy (the main henchman), something happened that was totally unexpected. And to me, it just came out of the freaking blue.

Wait, what?

Now, let me set the stage for things. Wesley has been blowing up businesses in town, but so far… they were classic 80’s explosions. A building would burst into a fiery ball, the owner would drive up in his truck, step out of the truck, and then throw his hat into the ground in anger. That kind of thing.

Prior to this video clip, we see that the main henchman Jimmy has set fire to where Dalton has been living. Dalton rescues his landlord from the flames, and the subsequent fight scene ensues:

It’s your regular 80’s fight scene, until Jimmy utters that prison line. Completely OUT OF NOWHERE.

At that precise moment, I feel that Road House becomes a totally different movie. From here on out, things get incredibly violent incredibly quickly. Dalton (literally) rips out Jimmy’s throat, we start seeing all manner of firearms, and people start dying at regular intervals.

The movie ends with most of Wesley’s henchmen dead, along with Wesley himself (killed directly by several of the business owners he had wronged). In addition to Wesley being shot by multiple shotguns, one of the owners collects the weapons before the police arrive (the first time I think they make an appearance in the film). And everyone claims an “Aw shucks, I didn’t see nothin'” attitude.

Rather than seeing Dalton as the plucky hero, by the time the film ends… I see him more as a disciplined fighter just barely able to contain his rageaholic nature.

While I really was looking for nostalgia when I fired up this film, it surprised me how drastically the film changes – during that fight scene between Dalton and Jimmy, right at that precise moment.

I remembered a lot of things from Road House: the “be nice” speech, the “right boot” scene, Jeff Healey doing his thing.

But clearly, I did not remember the last 30 minutes of this film. Because… it truly is a totally different movie.

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