With a jolly “paarp, paarp” on my motorcar horn, it’s Burl, arriving in town to do you a new review! Ha ha, we all love stranger-in-a-small-town movies, don’t we? It’s a pretty reliable microgenre, and maybe not so micro either, as, once you’ve tossed in Westerns, samurai pictures, and action movies from the 80s, there must be hundreds, nay thousands of these things! It’s a very basic formula, therefore theoretically hard to mess up, but one thing you learn when you watch a lot of movies with a critical eye: anything can be messed up! Ha ha, I wonder if that’s the case with today’s movie, Roadhouse 66!
Ha ha, I’m not going to make a joke about this being the 65th sequel to Road House, because I expect that hoss’s been rode before! No, it’s the tale of a travelling fauntleroy called Beckman Hallsgood Jr., played by Judge Reinhold from Ruthless People and Gremlins in effete-nerd mode! Beckman is scion to a belly-bustin’ fast-food pork franchise and is driving his T-bird across the desert to scout locations or something, but as he approaches Kingsman, Arizona he’s set upon by the town goons, the result being his flivver disabled by gunfire! Luckily a wandering rockabilly who knows how to fix cars, played by Willem Dafoe from Streets of Fire and The Lighthouse, shows up to play it cool and help out Beckman in exchange for a ride into town! The rockabilly’s name, of course, is Johnny Harte, for how could it be otherwise!
Conveniently enough there are two beautiful sisters living in the town who are single and sell auto parts! Kaaren Lee from The Right Stuff and Remote Control is Jesse, the older sister with the incomprehensible past, and Kate Vernon from Pretty in Pink and Mob Story is Melissa, the younger and more impulsive one! But also in the town are the louts who shot up Beckman’s car: a fearsome triumvirate led by Hoot, a meatbones played by Alan Autry from Brewster’s Millions and House! His minions are a scabie little guy named Dink, played by Kevyn Major Howard from Full Metal Jacket and Alien Nation, and Moss, played by Peter Van Norden from The Best of Times, who looks like if Mike Starr had been removed from the oven twenty minutes early!
The whole middle act is an escalating campaign of harassment from Hoot and his boys directed at Beckman, who’s stuck in town until the ladies can order up a new radiator! Luckily Johnny Harte is around to help him out of trouble, and lucky too that they have a place to sleep in the junkyard owned by old drunken Sam, played by Stephen Elliott from Beverly Hills Cop; and later, of course, they take up with the two sisters: Johnny with Jesse, Beckman with Melissa! And that incomprehensible past of Jesse’s that I mentioned? Well it turns out she used to be married to Hoot, a thoroughgoing jerk with a drywall personality and the physique of Cousin Eddie from Vacation! Who’d have thunk it! But things come to a sticky wicket when Hoot and co. start a vengeance fire that turns fatal for one of the characters!
Meanwhile I know you’re asking “Ha ha, what about this roadhouse we’ve been promised by the title!” Well some of the action, including a fight between the two heroes and the gang, does take place there, but it’s not as central to the plot as you might assume! Erica Yohn, who was Madame Ruby in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Selma in Amazon Women on the Moon, is the roadhouse proprietor, Thelma, who observes the goings-on with wry detachment, but is there for our heroes when needed! And the roadhouse itself is a pretty bland place, free of any atmosphere or style!
The climax of the picture, once we finally get there, is one of the least exciting car races ever filmed! It starts out promisingly when Hoot sticks a scorpion in Beckman’s car, but from there it’s mostly a series of static shots of cars rolling by at moderate speeds! Ha ha, at least that gives us a good look at the nice autos – a T-bird, a Chevy, a wonderful ’66 Mustang! I won’t tell you how it ends up, but we never really find out what happens to Hoot – who, after all, is an arsonist and a murderer as well as being a scorpion-dropping jerk!
I’ll wrap it all up by saying this: Roadhouse 66 is a pretty unmemorable and unexciting small-town meller, but if you like Dafoe and Reinhold and always wondered what it would be like if they teamed up, you may wring some enjoyment from it! But I myself had never wondered that, so I didn’t get a whole lot from the picture! I liked the cars though, and the small desert-town location! I’m going to give Roadhouse 66 one new radiator!