So, it turns out that they’re remaking the classic 1989 film Road House because, well, I guess some Hollywood executive has decided that it will make money. I can’t think of another reason why you’d want to remake one of the best-loved and enduring “fighty” films from the ’80s. The new version starts Jake Gyllenhaal as Dalton, and MMA superstar Conor McGregor as his nemesis, Knox. It’s combining more modern things like MMA into the mix, but it looks like it’s essentially the same plot. Trailer:

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The original Road House is probably not classified as a martial arts film, because it mixed so many different film styles together, and didn’t really feature any famous “martial artists” in the cast, but Road House always felt like a classic martial arts film to me, just with more Western style fighting in the fight scenes.

It started Patrick Swayze as the bouncer of the aforementioned Road House, who has to deal with an onslaught of progressively worse ‘bad guys’ who are trying to bust up his bar, until he faces the final bad guy in a fight that remains forever legendary for its brutal throat ripping out scene, at least it’s legendary in my mind. It also had some great Blues music played ‘live‘ in the Road House, by the Jeff Healey Band.

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Swayze was most famous for his role as a sexy dancing Butlins-entertainer in another classic ’80s film, Dirty Dancing. Casting him as a tough guy who could convincingly take out bad guys armed with knives and the like with his bare hands was a risky casting move, but he pulls it off with style and grace, perhaps proving once again that dancing is the best base for martial artists to emerge from (Bruce Lee was a Cha Cha dancer).

But what I liked most about Road House was the Tai Chi. When Dalton wanted to kick back and get away from the pressures of life he rocked up to the local lake shore and did some Tai Chi, (without his shirt on, obviously*.)

Ok, it wasn’t great, but at least it looked like Tai Chi. The implication was that Dalton was so good at fighting, and secretly enjoyed it so much, that he had to work hard to keep calming himself down otherwise his killing power would bubble up and overwhelm him, taking his humanity with it – kind of like the Hulk. He talks all the way through the film about not liking fighting, and how he does everything to avoid it. Eventually the bad guys push him too far and he unleashes the beast, resulting in the classic throat ripping scene.

I’ve always wondered why Tai Chi never had its Patrick Swayze moment. Wing Chun has been riding on the coat tails of Bruce Lee for half a century now, yet nobody really associates Tai Chi with Patrick Swayze, or this film. Perhaps if he’d gone on to make more Tai Chi or martial arts related films then things would have been different. Instead we got Ghost with Demi Moore and sexy pottery because his most associated activity!

Perhaps I’m being too hasty – when I started a Tai Chi class recently 4 women turned up asking if what they were going to learn was “like Patrick Swayze in Road House”? To be honest, I got the impression that they were more into shirtless Patrick than Tai Chi 🙂

But anyway, let me leave you with this compilation of the best lines from Road House.

Just remember: “I want you to be a nice…until it’s time to not be nice.”

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“*” there was clearly a homoerotic subtext to the original Road House. While Swayze pratices shirtless Tai Chi he is gazed at by multiple men. Check out this exhaustive breakdown of Road House for more on that. Perhaps that’s another reason why Road House didn’t end up being a Tai Chi-promoting juggernaut?

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