The actor has died of cancer at 57. Some—perhaps most—people will remember Swayze primarily for his roles in Ghost and Dirty Dancing. Me? I'll remember him best as the lead beer-chugging, mullet-coiffed, naked-martial-arts-practicing bouncer in Road House—and the pool-cue-swinging badass behind the greatest bar fight in movie history:
Road House is one the great B-movies, and, even more crucially, it's pretty much the definitional flip-on-TBS-at-1-in-the-morning bad action flick. It's been a few years since I've seen it, but I'm pretty sure the plot involves Swayze and his fellow bouncer, played by Sam Elliot, doing nothing but drinking beer and bar-fighting for a solid forty-eight hours. I wouldn't call it believable, exactly, but Swayze's delightfully vacant Zen-thuggery—at times, he was a sort of proto-Keanu Reeves—made it easy not to care.
Speaking of Keanu Reeves, Swayze also deserves a lot of credit for his role opposite the dead-eyed future Matrix denizen as Bodhi, the leader of The Ex-Presidents, a mask-clad gang of surfing, bank-robbing, thrill-junkies in Point Break, one of the most underrated action movies of the 90s. Stuck with maximumly silly lines like, "It's that place where you lose yourself and you find yourself, and you don't know it, but you got it right there," he transformed the role's inherent absurdity into a virtue by delivering each nugget of corny philosophical gibberish as a sort of existential dare—a test to see if you had the guts to call him on his nonsense. If you didn't, he won.
Swayze hasn't worked on much of note recently, but I'm sad to see him go. Here's hoping there are bar fights in the afterlife; if so, they just got a little more awesome.
In 1998, Mike Lynch referenced Swayze's most famous role with this article, titled "Dirty Dancing."