Here are a million and one reasons for guys to hate Dirty Dancing, and not just because we find watching Patrick Swayze mince around in skintight slacks teaching Baby the merengue to be skin-crawlingly creepy. My biggest beef with the cha-cha-in-the-Catskills love feast is how it’s forever tainted Swayze’s rep. Letting him come off as a Lifetime network-loving testosterone Judas is absolutely sinful. Why? Two words: Road House.

Though it’s Keanu Reeves and Nicolas Cage who get the credit for updating the action hero (in Speed and Con Air, respectively), Swayze first laid the groundwork for such a character in 1989’s Road House. In Rowdy Herrington’s swizzle-stick action flick, he plays legendary juke-joint bouncer Dalton (so legendary, he requires only one name), whom bar owners summon when they need neck-snappin’ justice straight, no chaser. But there’s a twist: Dalton’s not your average head cracker. Along with a whupping stick and ripped abs, he’s got a philosophy degree from NYU! So in between turning out-of-line drunken dirtbags into bloody hamburger meat, Swayze fires off such pearly bons mots as ”Nobody ever wins a fight” and ”Be nice … until it’s time to not be nice.”

Okay, I’ll admit Road House has maybe the creakiest dialogue and most preposterous premise in film history. But it did come along when monosyllabic meatheads like Stallone had theaters in a chokehold and deserves credit for trying to elevate the action genre. And you’ve gotta give it up for this dirty-dancing girlyman. Like an ’80s hybrid of Heston, McQueen, and a pre-porked-up Seagal, Swayze oozes bone-breaking menace when he shows up at a monster-truck-friendly watering hole to kick butt. With every additional showing of Road House on TNT — it regularly outdraws Saturday Night Fever — I’m more convinced that Swayze could have given action fans the time of their lives if he hadn’t preferred rhumba-ing to rumbling.



Road House
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