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‘Road House’: A Fun Remake That Should’ve Been in Theaters

Amazon Prime remade an action classic, and then put it straight to streaming. The question is, was the movie good enough to go to theaters?

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal (left) and director Doug Liman (right) on Day 1 of filming Road House (2024). Credit: X/@PrimeVideo
Actor Jake Gyllenhaal (left) and director Doug Liman (right) on Day 1 of filming Road House (2024). Credit: X/@PrimeVideo

It’s no secret that Hollywood keeps digging into films from the past and trying to reinvigorate past iconic properties. This seems to materialize in two ways: either “legacy sequels” that try to bridge the old cast with enthusiastic newcomers (think 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens), or remakes that try to update a story for the current era. Director Doug Liman’s new remake of Road House (2024) for Prime fits snugly into the latter category. But firstly…

Patrick Swayze from the original Road House (1989). Credit: YouTube/MGM
Star Patrick Swayze from the original Road House (1989). Credit: YouTube/MGM

What Was the Original Road House?

Over the years, 1989’s Road House has garnered a lot of attention and love as a cult classic. Starring Patrick Swayze, the movie follows him as the enigmatic Dalton, a legendary bouncer who is hired to tame the brawls at a refurbished roadhouse in Missouri. The fighting is juxtaposed with a romance with Dr. Elizabeth Clay (Kelly Lynch), and the battle to keep a small town from the greedy hands of business man Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara). Initially, the movie was a critical bomb and fared okay financially, but it found a life on cable television. Since then, action film fans have claimed it to be one of the genre’s best!

Now, this is not a review of Swayze’s Road House, but like anyone else who watches a remake after seeing the original film, you will be influenced by the impact of what came before. Personally, I don’t think Road House is “truly great”, but it is a rare breed of movie. It knows exactly what it’s trying to do, and doesn’t do anything more. The practical action sequences are fun to watch unfold, and they’re back by stunning cinematography and a rocking soundtrack! It also helps that Swayze is dynamite himself. An adept fighter who has missteps, flaws, and an interest in philosophy, Swayze has such an intense charisma. His character is the personification of who “every man wants to be, and every woman wants to be with”, and when the camera follows him, you’re entranced.

Conor McGregor (left) and Jake Gyllenhaal (right) trading smiles at Road House (2024) premiere. Credit: Shutterstock/lev radin
Conor McGregor and Gyllenhaal at Road House (2024) premiere. Credit: Shutterstock/lev radin

So, What’s Different?

This new movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Billy Magnussen, Daniela Melchior, Post Malone, and UFC fighter Conor McGregor in his acting debut. Gyllenhaal plays Dalton, who in this version is a former UFC fighter now fighting for money. Out of the blue, he is hired by the owner of a bar called The Road House (played by Jessica Williams) in south Florida. This bar is the center of rough activity from the patrons, and Dalton must use his prowess to stop the fights. Complicating matters is Magnussen’s Ben Brandt, a rich man trying to build a resort where the bar is. With Dalton in the picture, he hires McGregor’s Knox to achieve his goals.

Aside from changing Dalton’s background, and making the businessman villain younger, there are other elements in the remake that are different. For example, we are no longer in Missouri, but a town in the Florida Keys. And moreover, there’s not too much training of the bouncers like there is in the original. Swayze’s role of bouncer was more integral, especially when the mentor character of Wade Garrett (Sam Elliot) comes in. No such character exists in this film, so despite there being a ton of fighting, there is a distinctly different air this time around.

Is Road House Worth Seeing?

With comparisons out of the way, the real question is, did Doug Liman and Jake Gyllenhaal make a worthwhile movie to watch? Honestly, I think the answer is yes! Now, this isn’t a great movie, but as I said before, the original isn’t either. I found this Road House to be a fun couple of hours where you can turn your brain off and enjoy yourself.

A key part as to why this movie is fun is Gyllenhaal. Wisely, he does his own take on Dalton, and doesn’t try to capture the swagger Swayze brought to the role. Gyllenhaal not only brings an impressively chiseled physique, but also some subtle humor and a quasi-psychopathic center. It seems strange on paper, but Gyllenhaal nails every scene, and you grow to like him despite his flaws. Much like Swayze, when he’s on-screen, you can’t look away.

Most will come to Road House for action, and I think that it delivers on that front. The sequences themselves are shot uniquely, with Liman constantly panning the camera and shooting in a widescreen format. It offers a clear view of what’s in frame, which is something American action movies aren’t always known for. Liman also uses longer takes so there are fewer cuts, which is also nice. Occasionally, he’ll use digital effects to hide cuts, or transition to new angles, and it feels out of place. Personally though, I didn’t really find it too distracting, and still appreciated the physical fighting.

Credit: FilmIsNow Movie Bloopers & Extras/YouTube

There’s also some other enjoyable parts to this, too. The rest of the cast seem to approach the movie not too seriously. It feels like an enjoyable way of of letting us in on a joke, if that makes sense. Billy Magnussen as a young rich villain is easy to root against, and then there’s Conor McGregor. He isn’t really acting, but his infectious over-the-top manner is perfect for a henchman role. When he and Dalton finally square up, you know it’s about to go down!

To be fair though, aside from a few technical faults, the big problem with Road House is the way it goes about the story. Well, maybe not a huge problem, but the movie goes for “hangout vibes”. While there’s still that similar plot structure to the original movie, everything feels less urgent, and a little…underdeveloped. As mentioned before, the movie breezes through Dalton training the other bouncers. There’s another romance with a nurse, this time played by Daniela Melchior, but it’s not as prevalent. Neither is Dalton taking on the wealthy villains of the story, which was another major plot point.

Should It Have Gone Theatrical?

A huge point of contention with Road House was the release method of the movie. Director Doug Liman turned heads when he said he wouldn’t attend the premiere of his movie, as he was under the impression it would release in theaters. On the flip side, Jake Gyllenhaal said he sympathized with Liman, but Amazon had made it clear this was a streaming movie for Amazon Prime.

Regardless of Amazon’s original intent, Road House should’ve gone theatrical. Just last year, they did an initial theatrical release of Air (2023) before it came to Prime. Plus, it’s not like action movies aren’t popular on a big screen. The John Wick franchise puts forth innovative setpieces for all to see, and this year’s The Beekeeper with Jason Statham had solid financial success. Adding insult to injury, The Beekeeper is an Amazon and MGM Studios production! It’s baffling to say the least.

The other crucial element to this lies with Swayze’s Road House from 1989. The original movie had a theatrical release, but the reruns that occurred and still occur today help maintain its reputation as a classic. The problem with dumping a movie like this straight to streaming is that it’s lost in the shuffle, whether live-action or animation. Regardless of craft, it makes the efforts of filmmakers feel wasted. It’s perhaps worse for Liman, because the craft he employs here is very clear.

The logo for Road House (2024). Credit: YouTube/Prime Video
The logo for Road House (2024). Credit: YouTube/Prime Video

Should You Go See Road House?

Despite being a remake, I believe 2024’s Road House is a perfectly enjoyable movie for some late-night fun! It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but Gyllenhaal is very fun and the action is full of hard-hitting moments. And, for something that probably didn’t have to exist, it has a lot of decent filmmaking craft behind it. I think that fans of the original could enjoy it if they know going in it’ll be a slightly different ride. However, I think it still captures that spirit of the original in a few scenes. I just wish it was able to gloss the big screens across the globe for an extended period of time!

Written By

Hi, my name is J.D., and I'm a writer here at TrillMag, and as far back as I can remember, I've loved talking and writing about movies, TV, and the general entertainment industry. I hope to cover some current trends, and also recommend some things you might've overlooked!

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