“Road House 2: Last Call” sees Johnathon Schaech (who last starred in the pointless sequel to Nicholas Cage’s “8MM”) as Shane Tanner, the son of the original “Road House’s” James Dalton (Patrick Swayze). Now a DEA agent in the big city, Shane returns to the Louisiana town of his childhood when his uncle Nate (Will Patton), who had raised him after the death of his father, gets beaten to a bloody pulp by colorful local drug dealer Wild Bill (Jake Busey), who is after Nate’s bar, The Black Pelican for nefarious reasons. Back home again, Shane takes over The Black Pelican, romances the beautiful but hardass Beau (Ellen Hollman), and before you know it, 70 minutes are up and it’s time for the climactic showdown where everyone gets theirs. Pass the beer!
For a sequel to a film about a guy who beats up people in bars for a living, “Road House 2″ seems curiously uninterested in its bar scenes. There is one obligatory drag-down fight in the bar between Shane and some of Wild Bill’s men early on, and that’s about it. The rest of the film occupies itself with Wild Bill, whose boss, played by ex-kickboxing champ Richard Norton, soon comes down to scream at his incompetent underling. Apparently the bad guys want The Black Pelican because the bar’s location makes it the perfect staging ground for drug running. And for a guy whose uncle got stabbed, shot, and hospitalized, Shane, the big DEA man, really doesn’t do any investigation. Everything sort of, well, comes to him, including the girl.
There is such an emphasis on “Road House 2″ being a sequel to the original that Swayze’s lines from the 1989 film are repeated throughout the film, apparently as some kind of inside joke to the film’s fans, the original having achieved cult status in the intervening 17 years. After a while, you wish “Last Call” would shake off the shackles of its predecessor and just get on with being a standalone film. Not that I believe this would have improved the film any, as the script (co-written by Schaech, no less) doesn’t seem capable of being anything more than generic B-action movie stuff.
The film does earn its stripes by way of a couple of pretty brutal action sequences, one involving Shane and the aforementioned Black Pelican encounter with Wild Bill’s boys, and then at the end, when tough chick Beau goes head to head with Wild Bill’s knife-wielding assassin. The two women’s battle might just be the most hardcore girl-on-girl combat ever committed to film, and if for nothing else, you should rent “Road House 2″ just for that scene. The always great character actor Will Patton, despite having what amounts to a cameo, nevertheless manages to squeeze in three improbable fights into the movie. Patton was no doubt having fun with the role, as this is probably the first time he’s been called on to play an action hero, albeit a semi-retired one.
“Road House 2’s” biggest mistake is going beyond the call of duty to needlessly tying itself to the original. Not only did they make Shane the son of “the legendary Dalton ” (the mother’s name, and her fate, is never mentioned), but the film goes so far as to tie the current villains up with the death of Dalton . All of this wouldn’t be so farfetched if the actors weren’t of such varying age. Schaech is not only older than Busey, but he looks three times older, which makes their character’s shared history all the more ludicrous.
As the villain, Busey is clearly enjoying himself, and more than once reminds you of his father’s later career in similar villainous direct-to-video fare. As Busey overplays his role with gusto, you can easily picture the elder Busey in the exact same role, doing the exact same thing. It’s uncanny how similar father and son not only look alike, but how their acting style has mirrored each other. But perhaps Busey felt that his overly exhausting pyrotechnics were justified, seeing as how leading man Schaech has neither the charm nor personality to carry the movie. This guy is dull.
“Road House 2″ also indulges in a couple of howlers that will please fans of bad screenwriting. After a gunfight with federal agents at The Black Pelican, Wild Bill is nevertheless free to roam about Louisiana . We get a 1-second sound bite about how the DEA didn’t have proper jurisdiction to pursue Wild Bill in the first place, and thus they can’t go after him for trying to kill them — or the 100 or so civilians in the bar at the time of the gunfight, not to mention the couple that Wild Bill kidnaps at gunpoint in order to procure their boat in order to make his escape from the DEA raid. Later, Beau is warned by Wild Bill that he plans to attack Shane later that night at The Black Pelican. Instead of informing Shane of this fact, our heroine plots to lure him away from the bar so he will be safe. Result: Shane is safe (he also gets a little nooky — nice distraction tactic!), but two of his bouncers are beaten to bloody pulps and the club is trashed. Now that’s smart thinking, young lady!
Undemanding action junkies may find the film’s few Muay Thai-infused fights reasonably entertaining, if not overly impressive. (“Ong Bak” this ain’t.) Schaech looks physical enough for the demands of the role, but much of the film’s action scenes are tainted by creative camerawork that involves a lot of undercranking. And while the stunt work is pretty good all around, the film is greatly hampered by poor writing, something that makes the brief 85-minute running time seem like 2 hours. Nevertheless, there is that aforementioned hellacious girl-on-girl combat at the end that is downright spectacular, and is most definitely worth the price of admission. My suggestion is to just fast-forward to the last 10 minutes or so, and ignore the rest of the film.
Scott Ziehl (director) / Johnathon Schaech, Richard Chizmar, Miles Chapman (screenplay)
CAST: Johnathon Schaech …. Shane Tanner
Jake Busey …. Wild Bill
Ellen Hollman …. Beau
Richard Norton …. Victor Crost
Will Patton …. Nate Tanner