Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ode to Swayze

I would like to take a moment to remember Patrick Swayze who passed away last year at the age of 57. Swayze was, to those in my generation, an instrumental part of our entertainment education. He was a staple of 80s (and early 90s) guy movies, such as The Outsiders, Red Dawn and Point Break.

But Swayze was even more popular among women for this roles in two of the most iconic chick flicks of all time, Dirty Dancing and Ghost. To put this in perspective, imagine Hugh Grant as the tough talking, ass kicking veteran cop. Or Jason Statham starring as the aloof executive who's cold heart is melted when he meets a quirky, but charming massage therapist played by Sandra Bullock (with Bruce Willis as the gay neighbor).

See what I mean? Swayze was unique. I'm not saying this a good thing. It's just a matter of fact. Believe me, I could have gone my whole life without ever knowing about "Too Wong Foo, Thank for Everything! Julie Newman," in which Patrick Swayze plays a drag queen. And guys, how many times have you walked in the door and shuddered as the song I had the time of my life rings in your ears, only to find your wife or girlfriend sitting in the front of the TV, enraptured by the Swayze as he teaches Jennifer Grey to dance.

However, Swayze returned to his guy movie roots in 1989 with the release of the greatest (or worst) movie of all time - Roadhouse. The role of "Dalton," a thoughtful, but tough as nails bouncer who comes to a small Missouri town to rescue a local saloon is Swayze's 9th Symphony. From his feathered mullet to his pleated slacks, Swayze is in top form. And with a script that includes such cutting edge writing as "Pain don't hurt" and "My way or the highway," Roadhouse rises to the level of the sublime (or retarded).

The director, Rowdy Herrington (of course) was the first filmmaker with the inspiration (or delusion) to explore the world of "Coolers," a little known cadre of elite bouncers who, for the right price, answer the call to clean up the worst dives in the world. With unforgettable performances from Sam Elliot as Dalton's aged, but cagey mentor or Ben Gazzara as the villainous Brad Wesley, and a plot that rivals even the greatest cartoons, Roadhouse has transcended the storytelling (or comic book) medium. Only masterpieces such as Commando or Flash Gordon rival its calibur of filmmaking. And thanks to the good folks at TNT, TBS, USA, AMC and the Spike Channel, it is unlikely that we will forget this masterful (or ridiculous) piece of cinematic history anytime soon.

Perhaps the greatest complement I can pay to the Swayze is that whenever one of his movies are on, I am incapable of turning it off. My wife has accepted the fact that if, while channel surfing, we land on Roadhouse or Point Break, the remote is off limits until its over (As recompense, I must tolerate the viewing of Dirty Dancing in my house at least twice a year). So thanks to Mr. Swayze for his life and career. By all accounts he was a good guy. And I shall honor his memory by watching his movies for years to come.


Anonymous said...

I also suffer from being unable to change the channel when Point Break, Roadhouse, or Red Dawn is on. This is stupid because I own two of them and I can watch them any time I want, unedited and without commercials, for nothing more than the price of getting off my ass and putting them in the DVD player.

Thanks to the fact that I get the Fox Movie Channel in my basic cable package, I am able to see Point Break about twice a month.

For whatever reason, Swayze's characters in his movies aimed at male audiences tended to have a very zen-like point of view, even in some of his lesser appreciated gems like Next of Kin, Black Dog, and Steel Dawn.

If you can appreciate this, try to chase down Steel Dawn. It's one of the best Patrick-Swayze-as-a-sword-weilding-martial-artist-in-a-post-apocalyptic-world-who-spends-a-considerable-amount-of-time-standing-on-his-head-meditating movies you will ever see. I promise.

Red Dawn might be my favorite Patrick Swayze movie. Sure, Point Break had way more polish and Roadhouse had that crazy-eyed damn the torpedoes audacity of its concept, but just try to tell me that when Jed tells his brother Matty "don't cry!" you don't get goosebumps. Or when Swayze matches the under-happreciated theatrical titan that is Harry Dean Stanton punch for punch in their scene together as father and son trying to communicate through a fence (egads, the symbolism!) while a dramatically ill-equipped Charlie Sheen tries to keep up.

In all honesty, Swayze is one of those actors who if you saw him walking down the street you'd have a hard time not going up to him and telling him thanks for the hours of truly enjoyable escape he has provided you.

As far as I'm concerned, nobody puts Swayze in the corner.


Rolland said...

I'll be brief..."Point Break" was a butt-kickin' guy movie if I ever saw one. Loved the ending!

Jason Campbell said...

There is something deeply disturbing about a post on this blog about Patrick Swayze. Can't quite put my finger on it, but...[shiver]