Sunday, August 31, 2008

7 Things contemporary film-makers could learn from Road House

Possibly the thing I miss most about action movies from the eighties to early nineties. The action is real because those are real cars and buildings blowing up, it doesn’t matter that they used stunt men and pyrotechnics, it really blew up, there is some satisfaction in that at least. With CGI there is none since you don’t always know what really happened and what was altered to look like it really happened. When it’s obvious that it’s all fake then you feel cheated, like the film makers took the easy way out. The satisfaction is in watching the skill it takes to flip a semi or blow up a car, not in generating an animation of it.

Road House was a simple, straightforward movie with buildings having the shit blown out of them and blood pouches and Patrick Swayze knocking some guy off a dirtbike.

2. Real Actors
You didn’t get the feeling that the actors looked down on the script, or were condescending to their audience. Everybody in the movie does their job like it was Oscar-winning material, which, granted, it wasn’t, but they tried. There were no amateurs here either, Sam Elliott, Ben Gazzarra, Kelli Lynch, these are real actors, no Seagals or Van Dammes.

3. Ugly People
Ugly ordinary people. In contemporary movies everybody looks like a model unless they are somebody’s parent (old person role), or the Ugly Best Friend/Sidekick. The henchmen in Road House looked like guys you would see on the street, balding, fat, beefy guys, not people hoping to one day be the next Brad Pitt.

4. Music
One of the cool things about this movie was that it had a character playing music, not just any music, but non-pop, live music that was appropriate to the setting. You don’t see a whole lot of that anymore and these days everything has to appeal to the teens because nobody else watches movies. Hollywood has forgotten how cool it is to have music within the framework of the plot without setting out to make some kind of kiddie-musical.

5. Bars, Bouncers, Muscle Cars, Rural America
Road House is a redneck movie, there is no question about it, it was written and directed by a guy named “Rowdy” for fuck’s sake. Redneck-themed movies do have an appeal, the same way westerns have an appeal. They are a neglected market, catered to almost entirely by the likes of Jeff Foxworthy. No matter how much you despise them, they are one of the last bastions of American manliness. Also, they are amusing to watch, just as novelties.

6. Homemade Feel
This is a B movie, a well done one, but B nonetheless. It feels it was made largely by non-professionals on a small budget and that everybody worked really hard to make it an entertaining watch. A labor of love and community. That alone gets it a certain amount of goodwill in most people’s books. It lacks the pretensions of typical Hollywood fare. You get the feeling that some good ol’ boys decided to make one of them action flicks.

7. A Badass Hero
Swayze stabs a guy and then uses his corpse as a shield from a shotgun blast. Bourne movies aside, that kind of shit just does not get written anymore, and even in the Bourne movies the action is speeded up to where it doesn’t feel as intimate or visceral. Human shielding is not the kind of thing that gets into PG-13 movies and as said before everything now is pretty much “family-friendly”. Good guys don’t stab people anymore, especially not unarmed henchmen. I imagine it’s too graphic or raw, but in my opinion it makes James Dalton a badder ass than any recent Hollywood action protagonist.


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