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ROAD HOUSE

I Amazon MGM Studios I March 21, 2024 I

Starring:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Daniela Melchior, Billy Magnussen, Jessica Williams, Joaquim de Almeida, Conor McGregor, Lukas Gage, Arturo Castro, B.K. Cannon, Beau Knapp

Directed By: Doug Liman

Road House stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Dalton, an ex-UFC fighter trying to escape his dark past and his penchant for violence, in this adrenaline-fueled actioner. Dalton is barely scraping by on the reputation that still precedes him when he is spotted by Frankie (Jessica Williams), owner of a roadhouse in the Florida Keys. She hires him to be her new bouncer in hopes of stopping a violent gang, working for crime boss Brandt (Billy Magnussen), from destroying her beloved bar. Even five to one, Brandt’s crew is no match for Dalton’s skills. But the stakes get higher with the arrival of ruthless gun-for-hire, Knox (Conor McGregor). As the brutal brawls and bloodshed escalate, the tropical Keys prove more dangerous than anything Dalton ever faced in the Octagon. Also starring Daniela Melchior, Joaquim De Almeida, Lukas Gage.

REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

RATING 2 out of 5

Road House does not come close to the standard set by the original Patrick Swayze film despite Jake Gyllenhaal’s great transformation into Dalton, a keen eye for action, even if it is plagued by unnecessary CGI, and the magnetic feature film debut of Conor McGregor. 

 

It is almost a given in Hollywood today that classic 80s films have to be remade, so it was only a matter of time that the Patrick Swayze starring film Road House would be revived. The original film is not a brilliant film by any standard, but the effortless cool of Swayze, a rockin’ soundtrack and a western inspired story full of great fight sequences has helped the film become a fan favourite cult classic. It was an 80s film through and through, from the objectification of its characters, the loose narrative instead favouring a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, and the romance to create a starring vehicle for Swayze. Until last weekend I had never seen Road House, but I checked it out for the first time before watching the Jake Gyllenhaal starring remake, and immediately saw why the film has stood the test of time. However, I’m certain the straight to streaming remake will soon be forgotten in favour of the far superior original. Despite a scene stealing supporting turn from Conor McGregor, the remake can’t decide if it wants to be fun like the original or a serious, intense action film like more modern action films, which sadly sucks the entertainment value right out of the film. 

 

Gyllenhaal is trying to do his best Swayze impersonation in his portrayal of Dalton, and it works for the most part. He has that natural charm to make Dalton likable, that helps build him up as the local saviour. His physical transformation, ripped abs, sick tattoo and hulking presence on camera creates the formidable force that Dalton needs to be for this iteration of the story. Where he is lacking in the cool factor that he strives for. Swayze had an effortless coolness that drew everyone to like Dalton immediately, both characters and audience alike, and while Gyllenhaal is approachable, he never becomes the guy you want to have a beer with or fall in love with. 

 

Road House is not short on recognizable faces in its supporting cast, including actors like Daniela Melchoir, Billy Magnussen, Jessica Williams, Post Malone, Travis Van Winkle, Joaquim de Almeida, Lukas Gage, Arturo Castro, and Darren Barnett. But every single one of them suffers from a lack of screen time, making their roles in the film feel more like glorified cameos. Melchoir, largely due to the film’s writing, has little material to work with and suffers from a complete lack of romantic connection to Gyllenhaal, and while Williams is perfectly cast as Frankie, the owner of Road House, she gets so little attention that her talent is wasted. Magnussen is clearly having fun as the criminal lord of the Florida Keys; he’s cartoonish in the right ways but lacks the threatening nature his character needed for the film, while the rest of the cast does not have the screen time to make an impression on the film.

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But the true star of the film is fighter McGregor in his feature film debut. McGregor seems to be the only one who understood that the first Road House was a fun film, and that is what audiences get with his scene stealing turn as the psychotic Knox, who is hired to kill Dalton. While he is not a great actor who is going to take the business by storm, McGregor understands the assignment and brings an unstoppable mix of unhinged humour and brute force to his character, giving both the film and Dalton the antagonistic they deserve.

 

There is no question that Doug Liman knows action, having directed Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and The Bourne Identity, and it shows during the fight and action sequences. Each sequence features impressive fight choreography that brings a brutality and intensity to the film, perfectly displayed during the fights between Gyllenhaal and McGregor, which are without a doubt the highlight of the film. The final act is an extended action sequence which will satisfy the audience’s thirst for entertainment, but the over abundance of CGI during these sequences greatly tarnishes them. Moments where practical effects could have been used are replaced by blatantly obvious CGI that removes any sense of danger from the scene, while the majority of the fights are infused with CGI to increase the strength of each blow, which has the opposite effect that Liman intends. Combined with the cinematography style of the film that sucks the beauty out of the Florida Keys, the film plays out like a cut scene from a video game, taking away any cinematic aspect to the film that truly makes me question why Liman was so adamant that Road House should get a theatrical release as it would have looked terrible on the big screen.

 

In terms of the film’s story, while there are some noticeable differences from the original film, the Road House remake follows the same broad strokes of the original. Dalton takes over as the muscle at the Road House, trying to clean up the premise which has become the target of the henchman of a local, unruly business man who has his own plans for the land. Where it largely differs is the tone of the film. Gone is the fun and campy 80s vibe and its rockin’ soundtrack that made it an incredibly crowd pleasing, summer-esque film, now taking itself seriously as a grittier action film. While this works to match the tone of the film’s more brutal action, it sucks the life out of the film as everyone is taking the paper thin story far too seriously, which is not aided by the film’s overdrawn two hour run time. The romantic subplot between Dalton and Ellie is incredibly watered down, not getting much attention or development, failing to capture the allure of the relationship that helped drive the plot of the original film. The villain, while more mustache twirling and unhinged, feels more generic and less threatening, and the darker tone just dampens the overall experience. It doesn’t try to do the same thing of the original which is great, but it becomes a hollow copy of a far more entertaining and distinctive film.


While the original will still remain a cult classic as long as the legend of Patrick Swayze remains alive, the Road House remake is a streaming quality film through and through. While you cannot deny that Jake Gyllenhaal is does a good job taking on one of Patrick Swayze’s most iconic and beloved roles, Doug Liman and his creative team try to differentiate themselves from the 80s cult classic, but by doing so they suck the life and soul out of the story that has allowed the original to stand the test of time. While the action has the requisite intensity and brute force for a modern remake of Road House and Conor McGregor steals the show, an overabundance of distracting CGI and a far too serious tone makes Road House dead on arrival despite a commendable performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.

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