Road House Review: A Ripped Jake Gyllenhaal Doesn’t Rip Any Throats In Solid B-Movie Remake

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The post Road House Review: A Ripped Jake Gyllenhaal Doesn’t Rip Any Throats In Solid B-Movie Remake appeared first on Consequence.

The Pitch: Ex-UFC fighter Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal) is living out of his car and scamming cash in underground fights when Frankie (Jessica Williams), the owner of a Florida Keys road house, asks him for help — she needs someone to settle the violent elements attempting to shut down her humble bar. In need of the work, Dalton takes the job, getting to know the locals a bit before confronting the local biker gang single-handed.

But one beatdown is only a temporary solution to the bar’s problems, because the biker gang works for Brandt (Billy Magnussen), a real estate mucketymuck who’s trying to shut down the road house for his own entrepreneurial dreams. And Brandt’s father only makes things worse by hiring a thug named Knox (Conor McGregor), a hand grenade of a human being whose level of crazy might reawaken Dalton’s worst instincts.

Pain Don’t Hurt: A remake of Road House may not have been something the world really needed, but when director Doug Liman and star Jake Gyllenhaal are cooking, they’ve got a full stew going. Bringing a beach-y vibe to a classic tale of boy meets girl and punches all the bad guys, the new Prime Video release doesn’t skimp on the fisticuffs, even while it trades Patrick Swayze’s philosophical vibes for an almost off-putting amount of UFC cross-promotion.

Despite the fact that his name is not Rowdy Herrington (who directed the original Road House, and seriously, could you possibly imagine a better name for the director of a movie like Road House), Liman brings a lot of visual flair to the numerous fight sequences, deploying a swirling, acrobatic cinematography style that adds an impressive level of immersion. And Gyllenhaal’s in top form on numerous levels, blending his capacity for puppy-dog niceness with acrobatic stunt work and some impressive beatdowns. The film is at its best when it’s just Dalton versus some dudes, who may or may not know what they’re in for.

It’s Time to Not Be Nice: The best reason to compare a remake to the original film is when you know that something’s missing from the new version, but need to figure out what that is. In this case, it’s the approach to Dalton, who in Gyllenhaal’s hands is less Zen master and more burned-out adrenaline junkie. He’s got his own sort of calm, with an emphasis on niceness that spices up his interactions with unruly gentlemen, but his interior life is limited to haunted dreams of his UFC days. “No one ever wins a fight” is the closest he comes to real wisdom (and that’s a line direct from Swayze). Read a real book, Dalton!

Not only that, but a film hits a sort of glorious level of over-the-top when the central protagonist ripped a dude’s throat out with his bare hands. And that’s something the remake lacks — even the savagery of a brutal UFC beatdown can’t really compete with literal throat-ripping. Bringing in Conor McGregor feels perhaps like the filmmakers’ attempt to solve that problem, and the UFC champ is undeniably a force unleashed on screen. However, his presence is undercut slightly by the fact that this is his film debut, so maybe this is just what he’s like? (His offscreen behavior maybe backs that up to a degree.)

Road House Review
Road House Review

Road House (Prime Video)

As for the rest of the cast, there’s some great talent that feels just a bit underused: Billy Magnussen’s villainous cheekbones make him a natural for heavy roles like this, even if his character’s angry-at-daddy persona feels like it’s been done so many times, while Jessica Williams feels more like a regular at the bar she owns than an active force trying to preserve it.

Daniela Melchior, as the ER doctor who patches Dalton up before eventually becoming a hook-up, has some fun sparks but also feels underused; same for Lukas Gage and Dominique Columbus, as junior bouncers recruited by Dalton to help out at the bar. This film and the ’89 version have the exact same runtime, 1 hour and 54 minutes, but just maybe six more minutes of character-focused scenes would have gone a long way. The only actor who feels like he’s used just the right amount, and exceptionally effectively, is Arturo Castro as the world’s nicest member of a biker gang, who would happily be Dalton’s best friend, in a better world — A+ top-tier comic relief work.

The Verdict: The SXSW debut of Road House had an unexpected shadow over it, thanks to Liman announcing that he was boycotting the premiere because he disagreed with the decision to not release the remake theatrically. (He did sneak into the actual screening, when the time came.)

Liman’s complaint was that he’d made a great movie that deserved to be seen in theaters by a lively audience, and it’s a fair one — the action is solid, and there are certainly moments where a good cheer from the crowd might come organically. However, the original film became a cult favorite not theatrically but as a home video and cable mainstay, and the remake’s streaming release means that this film will just skip the wait to follow in that tradition: A mainstay of the slumber party circuit, a great movie to watch while lazying around on the couch on a Sunday afternoon, or a date night for tired parents looking for something fun to watch after the kids are asleep.

Like in fighting, there are some movies of a certain caliber, which excel because they know exactly what kind of movie they’re meant to be. Road House is definitely a fun watch — because it doesn’t punch above its weight class.

Where to Watch: Road House rides up to Prime Video on Thursday, March 21st.

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Road House Review: A Ripped Jake Gyllenhaal Doesn’t Rip Any Throats In Solid B-Movie Remake
Liz Shannon Miller

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