There Was Already a ‘Road House 2,’ and It Did Not Kick Ass

Liem Soeng

There Was Already a ‘Road House 2,’ and It Did Not Kick Ass

Take it outside, Jake Gyllenhaal — there was already a “Road House 2.” And it was awful.

The OG “Road House” starring Patrick Swayze came out in 1989 and made $30 million at the box office — a nice return on investment back in the day. Naturally, MGM struck while the iron was hot: a scant 17 years later, the studio released a straight-to-DVD sequel, “Road House 2: Last Call” (2006). Exactly 17 more years later, I went straight to Vudu to buy it. I did not get a good ROI on my $9.99.

Look, I knew what I was getting into. Like you, I didn’t realize there was a “Road House 2” until Doug Liman made a “Road House 3.” (OK, I know his home-entertainment “Road House” is not “Road House 3,” but also it is — canon be damned.)

Still the only “Road House” to get a theatrical release, the Swayze flick ended up doing most of its damage on home entertainment. The film isn’t well-reviewed — it has a 41 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 36 on Metacritic — but it is a bonafide cult classic. By any possible measure, “Road House 2” is a significantly worse film, and I’ve yet to find any interested cult.

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Like me, “Road House 2” director Scott Ziehl also knew what he was getting into. The only way for Ziehl to even compete with Rowdy Herrington’s “Road House” was by drastically upping the stakes, and he wastes exactly zero time doing so. Before even the casting director credits (Karen and Mary Margiotta, we’d like a word) roll, a montage of guns, hard drugs, alligators, butterfly knives, and bags of cash tell the audience we are dealing with dudes that would make the Double Deuce drunks hide behind chicken wire.

Fortunately, this time we aren’t solely relying on a pair of very competent bouncers; our protagonists are DEA agent Shane Tanner (Johnathon Schaech, or Jimmy from “That Thing You Do,” who also co-wrote “Road House 2”) and his uncle, Nate Tanner (Will Patton). They are the son and brother, respectively, of Dalton (Swayze) from the original “Road House” (not addressed: why their last name is “Tanner,” when Swayze’s character’s full name was “James Dalton,” according to a hospital chart seen in the first film). Considering Dalton seemed to have no known children in the ’89 film, the math here also doesn’t work; whatever, those are the least-wrong parts of “Road House 2.”

Swayze does not appear in “Road House 2.” Sadly, the “Dirty Dancing” icon was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer two years after “Last Call” was released; he died the following year.

In the world of “Road House,” Dalton has been dead for a couple of years; apparently, “Be nice until it’s time to not be nice” doesn’t work on bullets. Dalton was shot by new Brad Wesley’s (Richard Norton) underling Wild Bill (Jake Busey); the bullet was intended for Shane, who is about to get that information served up with a heaping side of revenge.

In “Road House 2: Last Call,” New Brad Wesley (not the character’s name, but who cares) needs to run his drugs, and there is simply no better landing spot than Nate’s bayou-front road house bar, The Black Pelican. New Brad Wesley instructs Wild Bill to get him The Pelican by any means necessary.

After Wild Bill and his posse put the tough-as-nails Uncle Nate in the ICU, his next-of-kin Shane takes a leave of absence from busting significant drug dealers to dealing with some local Louisiana scum. That means you, Jake Busey, who spends all of “Road House 2” doing an impression of his Oscar-nominated father, Gary Busey. No one in “Road House 2” wins an Academy Award, and it’s not because MGM bypassed a limited theatrical run.

In “Road House 2,” the good guys are very, very good and the bad guys are so, so bad. But don’t take our word for it — take the words straight from screenwriters Schaech, R. Lance Hill, and Miles Chapman in an early exchange between Wild Bill and a near-dead Nate:

WILD BILL
I promised you that I was gonna take everything you had when you kicked me out of The Pelican.

NATE
All so you could deal your filthy drugs.

WILD BILL
Look at you, crawling around on the ground and you’re still on your high horse.

Yep, no complex characters here.

Jake Busey in ‘Road House 2: Last Call’

In an attempt to lighten up all of that melodrama, “Road House 2” relies on two strange running jokes. First, multiple characters who knew (or at least knew of) Dalton tell Shane upon meeting him that they thought he’d be bigger. But Schaech is two inches taller than Swayze and has a fighter’s build to Swayze’s dancer’s bod. Perhaps we are nitpicking considering the size of the legend of the temp Jasper, Missouri bouncer, which would be an odd sentence to write anywhere outside of the “Road House” Cinematic Universe.

The other weird one surrounds a Black Pelican employee nicknamed “The Robot.” Not only can the glorified extra not act, he can’t even do the robot dance well, which should have been the entire audition process for the part. And The Robot doing the robot isn’t even a one and done gag — he’s back at it for the happy ending.

The Robot is comic relief with no actual comedy, which makes him a fairly good metaphor for “Road House 2: Last Call” itself; there is just no reason for it to exist.

Liman’s “Road House” premieres Friday at SXSW — not that Liman will be there. It premieres on Amazon Prime Video on March 21. We have much higher hopes for this one.

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