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Release Date: 03/21/24 [Prime Video]
Genre: Action. Thriller.

Studio: MGM. 

[Seen at SXSW Film Festival 2024]

"Ex-UFC fighter Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes a job as a bouncer at a Florida Keys roadhouse, only to discover that this paradise is not all it seems." 


Road House (1989) is a recent discovery of mine, a film I’d always heard reference to all over pop culture, but one I finally witnessed for myself in the last year. Without a notion of a doubt, the original has instantaneously become a favorite of mine. Its full fledged campy nature, extreme over the top violence and silly narrative make it one of the best of its kind - it’s for all purposes a Western set at a Road House. So, when Doug Liman’s new take crossed my sights I was extremely excited for what they could do to elevate everything that made the 1989 original a certified cult classic. 


Unfortunately in the case of the 2024 Road House, it shows just how wrong a remake can go. Where Jake Gyllenhaal is a welcome alternative to Patrick Swayze, everything else falls apart. The cast and script make the original, here the cast while loaded with some immense talent: Jessica Williams (Shrinking), Daniela Melchior (The Suicide Squad), Billy Magnussen (Game Night), and Conor McGregor making his introduction to the world of acting, lack any connection to one another. 


They attempt to play off a romantic relationship between Gyllenhaal’s Dalton and the doctor Ellie (Melchior), a connection from the original, but it paled in comparison. Then they tried to add a mystery into the relationship between Dalton and The Road House owner Frankie (Williams), but truly there was nothing intriguing of Williams' delivery as the character and she supplies almost zero character development for herself or the bar she owns. 


Give me whacky, campy Gyllenhaal any day, but give me subtitles for anything Conor McGregor says to even know what Dalton may be referring to. 

Gyllenhaal is fantastic as Dalton and if there’s a singular opinion to walk away from this film with, it is that Gyllenhaal worked. He’s no Swayze but he provides a life of his own to the role while paying homage and that’s where he got it so right. McGregor is a hired killer for our big bad of the film and while he’s menacing in his physique, his excessive catchphrases lack any substantial punch. Magnussen is the “big bad” of the film, a rich man child who wants to own all the coastal property in this small Florida town, but Frankie and The Road House stand in his way. Magnussen is exaggerated purposely, but plays his role a little too on a tightrope between the straight man and the comedic relief; he’s campy but just not enough. 


They transitioned the location to a beachside Florida property from the quaint town of Jasper, Missouri. This opens up the narrative to an onslaught of ocean hijinks, which leads me to one of my largest issues with the final product - the Road House isn’t the main character. Where in the 1989 classic the location takes on a heartbeat of its own, truly being a main character itself. Here, The Road House is merely a setting of many and lacks character. The development between Dalton and his crew on staff is minimalized and less enjoyable to watch transition from worthless security to people to be reckoned with through Dalton’s training. It’s in these small but hefty changes that the film begins to lose steam from a pure fan of the first one. It’s not trying to do anything new with the story of a popular, feared man coming to town to help ward off the violent patrons of The Road House, it’s just changing things to make it slightly different but ultimately less engaging. 


The action scenes, especially those with hand to hand combat are rapidly paced, containing some brutal shots, but ultimately wonky in their execution. They were reminiscent of the excellent editing and choreography shown by Matthew Vaughn in the Kingman films but nowhere near the clarity Vaughn is able to deliver; also a hint of Nobody (2021) / Hardcore Henry (2015) style within. It’s an action film that doubles down on the action, but the saying goes quality over quantity and not the other way around. 


Director Doug Liman is no stranger to a misfire and sadly the argument of whether Road House should be a theatrical release is moot, because this is the definition of a feature made to be lost in streaming. All I wanted was a fun time and it sadly didn’t deliver even a note of the campy brilliance of the original and *Spoiler* don’t expect any throat rips here.

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