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Review: Road House (2024)

Road House (2024)

Directed by: Doug Liman

Premise: A remake of the 1989 film. A former UFC fighter (Jake Gyllenhaal) is hired to be the head of security at a bar that’s having trouble with a local gang.

What Works: The filmmakers of the Road House remake approach the film with a good deal of humor. The strongest element of the movie is Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in the lead role. Rather than going for the in-your-face machismo that defined the original movie, Gyllenhaal plays his character as goofy. He’s tough and a more than capable fighter so he doesn’t have to prove himself. Instead, this character responds to threats with bemusement and he tries to deescalate conflicts. The combination of toughness, goofiness, and confidence makes Gyllenhaal’s character very likable. The film also stars Conor McGregor as the hired muscle that the villain has brought on to fight Gyllenhaal’s character. McGregor is an actual UFC fighter who has had a colorful public life and although McGregor is playing off his image he does well in the role and has a personality and flamboyance that distinguishes his character. The supporting cast includes Arturo Castro as one of the low-level villains. We get the impression that he’s a good guy whose fallen in with a bad crowd and Castro is very funny.

What Doesn’t: Nothing about the Road House remake is innovative or surprising. It changes the location and builds out the criminal story but this is still fundamentally the same premise. The picture often feels like a compromise between a straight remake and a parody; it would have been interesting to see what filmmakers such as Phil Lord and Christopher Miller would have done with this material. 2024’s Road House was directed by Doug Liman whose other films include Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Jumper, and Edge of Tomorrow. His action direction varies. Most fights are done well with a brutal style but Road House frequently includes digitally enhanced stunts that look fake and spoil the credibility. The original Road House was distinguished by its down and dirty style and late 1980s cheesiness. The remake looks polished and expensive but there’s nothing memorable about it. It’s also not quite clear what everyone is fighting for; there’s a real estate deal at issue but nothing more personal. The protagonist of the original film, played by Patrick Swayze, was motivated by a sense of honor. That’s not really the case here and the conflicts feel perfunctory and deflated. Nothing is really at stake. 

Disc extras: Available on Amazon Prime Video.

Bottom Line: The original Road House wasn’t a great movie and neither is the remake. The cast does what they can and Gyllenhaal, McGreggor, and Castro bring a lot of humor to the material but it’s a plastic reproduction lacking the organic and crunchy qualities that made the original Road House so memorable.

Episode: #990 (March 31, 2024)