Release Date(s)1989 (September 6, 2016)
Studio(s)United Artists/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout! Factory/Shout Select)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
The term “guilty pleasure” exists for a reason, although I don’t totally agree with its use most of the time. It’s ultimately meant to be a caveat for someone who wants to admit to enjoying something that they would otherwise deem embarrassing. In the scheme of things, Road House tends to fit that description for some of these people, although it really shouldn’t. Rowdy Herrington’s tale of a bouncer who’s hired to clean up a less than savory bar while getting in the way of an evil and corrupt local businessman was a cable staple for the many who saw it throughout the 1990s. It has since gone on to become one of those movies that is somehow both beloved and jeered at, guilty pleasure or otherwise.
Looking at the film with a little bit more of a critical eye, it’s clear that Road House was going for a modern western feel in its approach. An out-of-town drifter who comes in to straighten things out type-storyline can be traced back to films like A Fistful of Dollars. Thinking of it in those terms, it’s more of a continuation rather than something unsavory and new. Patrick Swayze’s performance, the over-the-top violence, and Michael Kamen’s score certainly helped in making it something special too. It also has many of the 80s hallmarks that we’ve come to expect from films made during that decade, including big hair, strippers, and fight scenes aplenty. It may wind up being entertaining on the most basic of levels, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
This new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of the film comes equipped with a new 2K scan of its interpositive element, which was supervised and approved by director of photography Dean Cundey. Comparing it to the previous Blu-ray release, there are some clear differences. Framing of shots has been adjusted, as has the color timing and overall brightness. Skin tones appear slightly more natural than they did before as well. As to which version is correct, well I’m going to go with the one that has the DOP’s seal of approval. Otherwise, grain levels are solid with excellent fine detail and texturing, deep blacks, and next to no major film artifacts leftover other than some mild speckling. I might also add that it’s a very stable presentation with a strong encode. For the audio, two tracks are included: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. Both represent the film well with excellent clarity, but it’s a preference point as to which is the better experience. The 5.1 opens things up a bit with score and ambient activity mostly occupying the surrounding speakers, while dialogue and sound effects take center stage. Everything is clean and clear and LFE activity is abundant. The 2.0 track is much of the same, but with less room to move around in, obviously. Both are solid presentations, no matter which one you choose. Subtitles in English are also included.
For the extras, this release is pretty loaded. On the first disc, there are two audio commentaries for the film itself, including one with director Rowdy Herrington and the other with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier (both carry-overs). On the second disc, there are five new extras, including the “I Thought You’d Be Bigger”: The Making of Road House retrospective documentary, A Conversation with Director Rowdy Herrington, “Pain Don’t Hurt”: The Stunts of Road House featurette, “Pretty Good for a Blind White Boy”: The Music of Road House featurette, and a Remembering Patrick Swayze segment. Archival extras include On the Road House, What Would Dalton Do?, the theatrical trailer, On the Set behind-the-scenes footage, a Patrick Swayze Profile, Selected Soundbites which are interview bits and pieces, and a photo gallery.
Revisiting Road House feels a bit like going home. It’s a film that you either dig or you don’t, but for many of us who grew up watching it whenever it popped up on TV, it’s like seeing an old friend. And Shout Select’s Blu-ray release of it certainly helps in getting one reacquainted with it.
- Tim Salmons