Every aspect of the Patrick Swayze film Road House is absurd. He’s a notorious bouncer (I didn’t know such a thing exists), he’s a martial arts master, he commands hundreds of dollars a day out of a bar with a very small clientele, and he has a philosophy degree from NYU – basically complete nonsense. What bothers me most is the economics of Road House, which don’t make sense whatsoever. Yet for some reason Road House is a revered action film, playing on basic cable channels multiple times a week. Basically, Road House is for bouncers what Cocktail is for bartenders: complete and utter bullshit.
Getting back to the economics of Road House, they’re impossible. Unless we’re working with some microeconomics that is the reason we’re in such a financial pickle, they’re complete fantasy. Dalton (Swayze) receives $500 a day for his services; I’m not even sure that bar makes more than possibly $1,000 a day and he’s not the Double Deuce’s only employee. While I’ve heard arguments that Dalton’s employment’s short term (until he cleans up the Double Deuce), the bar employs a handful of other bouncers, at least two bartenders, and a band – probably commanding at least $1,000 combined a night before Dalton’s salary. I doubt the Double Deuce is charging $5-$6 for a Budweiser and even though the patrons enjoy breaking bottles over each other’s heads, requiring multiple refills, I still question whether the bar pulls in over $1,000 a night. This isn’t even before we consider operation costs: electricity, water and sewage, upkeep (especially since tables and chairs are broken just about every night), and the cost of refreshments. The mark-up on alcoholic beverages at bars is extravagant, yet I sincerely doubt the Double Deuce has a 500% mark-up. Basically, Dalton’s paycheck would probably bankrupt the Double Deuce in a very short period of time; I hope he’s worth the cost.
Also, the Double Deuce’s hometown isn’t exactly a metropolis; it’s a little hick town with a limited population. I doubt there are over 5,000 people living there and the population is probably considerably lower. From the look of things the town probably houses around 2,000. Even though the Double Deuce no doubt relies on truckers and other travelers for their income, unless there’s a steady barrage of foreign visitors every night the Double Deuce would need a considerable portion of the town’s population as patrons. This isn’t the case, since the place has a negative reputation and most of the locals Dalton meets hold a pessimistic attitude towards the Double Deuce. It’s a rowdy place and the only place benefiting from the nightly violence is the local hospital, maintained by the phony breasted Kelly Lynch, who says the Double Deuce’s patrons make up a large part of the hospital’s business.
Then there’s the town’s organized crime underworld, maintained by small town mob boss Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara). He’s crafted a “local business union,” which commands around 10% of every business in town – or faces the consequences. He also controls all the alcohol distributors in the area, which doesn’t bode well for Dalton and the Double Deuce. Basically, Wesley has his hands in everything. I don’t doubt there are men like Wesley in just about every town but I doubt he’s rolling in it – how many businesses are there in this small town? They have a general store, there’s no mention of a grocery store or any chain outlets and it seems there’s a limited amount of businesses in this Podunk Midwestern hamlet. Wesley mentions he wants to build a mall, bring in “JC Penny’s,” and turn the place into a suburban nightmare. How? There aren’t enough people in town to run the mall, let alone keep it afloat. Wesley’s aspirations exceed the town itself, once again reminding me of the real estate woes our nation’s currently combating.
The infamous line from the mediocre Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams keeps running through my head, “If you build it they will come,” relating to Wesley’s ambitions. Maybe he believes he’ll attract people by providing suburban amenities, banking on the allure of cheap goods and a food court; maybe he doesn’t care if people come, content with the money he’ll make off the real estate and contracting deals. The latter sounds more plausible, since the town is basically an afterthought, a blip on the map people stop at for gas, fast food, and possibly a hotel for the night. His promises probably amount to nothing for the population but a vast sum of cash for him – like a carpetbagger, moving in and exploiting a subdued and possibly unintelligent population without a care for the citizens or their welfare. However, I’m not so sure this is the case since Wesley owns a large tract of land and maintains a giant mansion, complete with expensive works of art and a giant stuffed polar bear. Carpetbaggers didn’t typically settle in for the long haul; instead they exploited post-war financial depression and moved on. Regardless of Wesley’s intentions he’s there for financial exploitation. Control of alcohol distribution is buyable and so is his phony extortion association, but his dreams of building a mall is absurd. I’m sure he could get it done but a mall is nothing without anchor stores (Macy’s, JC Penny’s, etc.), who wouldn’t desire such a large investment into a small community known for its rowdy bar.
Then there’s the hospital, which looks like a state of the art medical facility. I’ve been to little towns before and very few house such a technologically contemporary complex. Places like Humboldt County in Northern California have one story hospitals, where complex operations are out of the question. Patients trek down to San Francisco for these procedures and many times people are airlifted down in cases of extreme emergency. While some hospitals are funded by tax dollars, others are private enterprises, working strictly for profit within the parameters set down by federal and state law. The tax base in the community isn’t large enough for a center of this sort and no medical corporation would invest that much money into such a small town. Basically it’s another case of bullshit. Even the Double Deuce’s patrons, constantly coming in for treatment, couldn’t bankroll such facilities.
In short, Road House is a completely unrealistic film; it’s more unrealistic than the Lord of the Rings trilogy, adhering to fantasy more than fantasy films. Patrick Swayze as an ass-kicking, world famous bouncer with a philosophy degree from NYU, a collection of classic cars, a large bank account…and he’s a martial arts expert to boot – basically, utter bullshit. I’m a fan of fantasy and I’m willing to suspend my disbelief on countless occasions but Road House is beyond ridiculous; it’s actually insulting. Thankfully it’s so unintentionally hilarious and filled with gaping plot holes and nonsensical logic that it’s enjoyable.
Here’s an old home video trailer for Road House that’s awesome. Happy New Year