Road House Blu-ray Review
Encoded via MPEG-2, this catalogue title from MGM looks very good indeed, and makes for a considerable upgrade over the DVD – which you can view as a comparison as the SD edition has been packaged-up with this release.
The print is in reasonably fine nick, though there are still some tiny pops and flecks here and there. Grain is in evidence, but it is very slight and does not possess a consistent texture across the full film, which makes me think that there may even be some DNR applied to the image, though let me stress that, if this has been the case, it has not been too detrimental to the overall 2.35:1 picture at all.
Colours are bright and lively, although there is a slight push towards the reds, yellows and browns. They don't smear and they don't look unnaturally boosted, despite the fidelity preference. There is a lot of neon in the film, and it all looks appropriately stark and blazing, but also quite jaded and smoke-affected when called for. Primaries are finely reproduced, especially the reds of the bouncers' shirts, the occasional splash of blood. The perpetually sunny daytime exteriors have a convivial and convincingly sunny glare, the landscapes – dry and dusty around the club, airy, green and lush whenever we visit Dalton's barn or Wesley's mansion – all appear well cast and boast finely vivid textures and depth. Skin tones are tanned and ruddy, but this is precisely how they were made up in those days (Kelly Lynch even explained that they wanted her skin to have an almost mahogany contrast to her ultra-bleached hair) and how the film was photographed. The copious flames from the explosions are lovely and bright and vivid. Thick orange fireballs are well-contrasted with hot whites and darker incendiary elements roiling within. The big exploding car scene is very colourful indeed, and well presented against the lush greens of the manicured lawns. This all adds immeasurably to the intentional comic-book aesthetic that Cundey and Herrington desired. Black levels are good, though not spectacular. I wouldn't have thought that we were missing any information within them.
And going along with this, we find that detail is more than decent. Facial texture – stubble, teeth, pores, cuts and crags – is reasonably high on the agenda. The image won't pass for anything that was filmed and transferred in the last few years, but I was happy with the level of close-up information that was revealed. This said, there are still a few occasions when faces can look quite bland and smoothed-over, once again leading me to suspect the utilisation of noise removal. The sets and locations have a lot more detail than I've seen them bestowed before. Woodgrain is clearly on offer, as are striations on broken glass, tight delineation on Dalton's knife-slashed side, and the stitching that he has applied, himself, to an earlier wound. The ripped-out throat looks more apparent – cheers for that. But it is the big hair that hogs the image for much of the time, and it gets lots of attention with nice separation, shading and whatnot. This follicular attention is hardly an important facet, I know, but the image does crank out a lot of information that has been previously masked. It is true that Dean Cundey's anamorphic photography have resulted in some softer edges and slightly indistinct elements during the deeper frames, but this is part and parcel of the lenses used and not an error with the hi-def transfer. The many large set-ups within the club offer much greater definition to all sorts of activities taking place – pop in the SD DVD and see the difference.
I did spot one or two instances of slight aliasing, but this was not something that is going to rattle anyone. Edges aren't unnecessarily enhanced and building structures or distant landscapes remain happily unmolested by unsightly haloing. Overall, this is a very pleasing image that helps to bring the film to life, and certainly looks like a rewarding improvement over what has gone before. I can't imagine any fans grumbling at this.
Road House is presented with a solid enough DTS-HD MA 5.1 that is faithfully blasted across the frontal array with reasonable depth and some fine stereo separation. This is not a film that particularly requires much support from the rears or the sub, although there is still some degree of immersion and the odd little thump of .LFE when things get all pyrotechnic. It certainly sounds a whole lot livelier and more dynamic than ever before.
There are several explosions in the movie. They won't challenge the bombast of anything like The Expendables or War Of The Worlds, but there is certainly a nice degree of heft to them. The booming crash of the flaming car is a highlight, of course, but then the scene of Wesley's monster-truck ploughing through windows and across the tops of a row of cars for sale puts some directional clout into things. The whump-whumping of Wesley's helicopter has some vigour, especially as it suddenly roars over our heads. There is also some fine detail that can be heard within the splintering of wood and the breaking of bottles. A hunk of board that was supposed to be fake, but actually wasn't, makes a very vibrant and highly distinct cracking noise as it is shattered against Swayze's torso during the big fight with Jimmy. Bodily impacts are nice and deep and meaty sounding, although they do sound a touch dated. You will have heard much better, but there is still nothing wrong with the audio pugilism that this disc delivers.
Dialogue is okay. There's nothing scintillating about the presentation, and one or two moments of interjections sparked from out from a group sound a touch flat and subdued within the mix, but you shouldn't have a problem with any of the speech … unless good old Sam Elliott's ferocious boulder-chewing brogue gets the better of you. We can hear some little things coming clearer than before, such as the snapping of the staples that Doctor Liz puts into Dalton's wound, and the pounding of the pads that our boy takes his frustrations out on during his intense workout. The score from Michael Kamen, as hum-drum as it is, still comes over with some neat atmospherics, that Clapton-style guitar quite keenly presented. The Jeff Healey Band give it some, and the transfer is more than happy to give them room to breathe.
A fun mix that won't upset the neighbours, but will still deliver some bang for your buck.
This is a 2-Disc set that has the Blu-ray over on one platter, with only the film's theatrical trailer to watch its back. The other disc carries the SD version of the film, and this is where all the supplemental action can be found. All of this stuff, if memory serves me right, could be found on the Special Edition release a while back.
We get two very interesting commentary tracks, as well as a highly amusing little pop-up trivia-track – one from the director, Rowdy Herrington, and the other, and far superior one from Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier, both of whom are massive fans of the film and expand on their earlier dissertation on it from a previous commentary track. Very, very funny and totally laid-back and irreverent, this still supplies plenty of little trivia titbits about the cast and the crew, but it is, primarily, played for laughs and is hugely entertaining. Of particular interest are the continued delivery of Dalton Factoids, all of which are based quite clearly on the old Chuck Norris catalogue of “Did you know … that Chuck Norris is so tough that …?”, only with Dalton being the name that is dropped. Obviously. Well worth you time, folks. Herrington's is naturally drier, and more focussed upon the production itself, but it is still worth listening to.
There's a simply terrific 17-minute retrospective here that is a real joy to watch. Swayze is in here. So's Preston and Marshall Teague. We hear from Herrington and we hear from Jeff Healey. And even Benny “The Jet” Urquidez crops up. Jam-packed with anecdotes about mullets, lying in cold water, throat-ripping, fighting to music, rough sex, warrior philosophies, cult appeal and the ethics of bouncing that were revamped in the wake of the film's word-of-mouth success, this is pretty special stuff. Funny, informative and full of good-natured affection, this is something that fans will relish. My only regrets? That could have been on for longer … and that Sam Elliott doesn't appear. Otherwise, this is awesome.
What Would Dalton Do? is a smart and highly amusing little documentary that takes the premise of the film and the code of its lead character and discovers how real life bouncers and coolers feel about its authenticity. We meet a terrific little gathering of highly experienced professionals in the business who regale of their training, their opinions and their undivided love for the film. All of this is interspersed with choice illustrative clips from Swayze's stint as a bruiser, and we even get to some specially shot footage of the type of hassles that they have to deal with in their occupation. All of them love their jobs … and they make no bones about the reasons why! Girls, busting heads, girls, notoriety, girls. Oh, and they get to meet girls too!
Not a bad little roster of extra features, actually. All very enjoyable, even if nothing new has been added.
You know it's hokum of the lowest possible order, but there is no escaping the all-out dumb-ass cult classic nature of Rowdy Herrington's immensely enjoyable Road House. Very much the epitome of the 80's – the action, the mullets, the chicks, the macho ethics – Swayze's brawlathon acts like the swansong for the decade. It may start off as an ode to the neglected art of keeping order in bar, but don't let that fool you. Road House is the modern-day Western in every way. Swayze's maverick knight comes to town and, by hook or by crook, though mostly by the scruff of its neck, he cleans it up, and chases the bad guys out of it. You can't call it a great film, but you know exactly what you're getting and Road House certainly aims to please its intended target audience with mucho macho mayhem, copious T & A, lively source music and the sort of noble thuggery that we all wish we could get away with. Plus, it's got Sam Elliott in it, and Julie Michaels doing the strip!
MGM opens up the club with a transfer that may have had some tinkering, but still tends bar with an image that is very pleasing and wastes no time in providing a vibrant and appealing experience. The lossless audio won't get out of hand, but still delivers a lively time, and the extras guarantee that a stay-behind is well worth sticking around for.
I love the style and the idiocy of go-for-broke 80's exuberance and Road House just sums it all up in one inebriated welter of boastful, over the top action and titillation. Off its trolley, but a terrific dose of punch-drunk nostalgia. Well recommended for those with similar tastes.
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