Road House movie poster

Road House

In theaters March 21, 2024

Rated

,

114 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , ,

A couple of slices of munster. A few cubes of cheddar. Road House. All just the right amount of cheese.

In 1989, still riding the success of Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze starred as John Dalton, a bouncer hired to help the owner of a dive bar clean up its clientele in order to reinvent itself. 35 years later, Dalton is back with a new face, a new first name, and a whole new level of cheese factor in director Doug Liman’s reimagining of the original Road House.

Elwood Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a broken man on the run. A former UFC heavyweight fighter, he now travels from town to town in search of local fights for much smaller purses. That is until he meets Frankie (Shrinking‘s Jessica Williams), a Florida Keys bar owner who is seeking Dalton’s help in keeping the riff raff out of The Road House. Dalton obliges when Frankie meets his demands and down south he goes to get to work. Dalton soon finds himself engaged in a war with local bad guy Ben Brandt (Billy Magnusson) who built the city along with his now imprisoned father. When Brant finds himself on the losing side one times too many, daddy calls in the muscle, Knox (MMA superstar Conor McGregor in his first acting role). Mayhem ensues and, well, there is a lot of blood lost.

Somewhere along the way, a friendship is built with a young girl and her dad who own a local bookstore, Lucas Gage (The White Lotus and You) appears in an underdeveloped role, and there is a love story – similar to the original story, Dalton falls for a doctor – in this case, Ellie (Daniela Melchior). But, based on the lack of chemistry and far too diminished romance, much of it must have been left on the floor.

There are many other similarities and call backs to the original cult classic – a bar owner seeking help cleaning up their bar, a big bad seeking to get in the way, and even some classic lines. Like the original, music also plays a big part, but instead of featuring the music of just one artist (the late Jeff Healey), the new Road House employs a host of bands across every genre to perform at the Road House.

Now let’s be honest here, the 1989 Road House was not a good film. Patrick Swayze was far too much of a pretty boy and the cast was far from talented, but there was something special about the 80’s version with its corny script, big hair, and completely unnecessary nudity. At least enough so to make it a cult favorite and getting long time friends Jack Gyllenhaal and Doug Liman to collaborate on a remake.

With the new film, Gyllenhaal is perfectly cast and surpasses what Swayze did in a similar role. Much of Gyllenhaal’s success is due to his ability to crush not only enemies, but also one liners that are delivered with expert dry-wit humor. And while Swayze was sculpted for his turn as Dalton, Gyllenhaal somehow found a way to be bigger than his role as a boxer in Southpaw. His face and body wear the years of fighting demons compared to Swayze who never looked like he fit the role.

Doug Liman, best known for directing big action films like The Bourne series and Edge of Tomorrow ups the ante by balancing his use of shaky camera work with steadicam but then also utilizing GoPros in fight scenes. Taking on an almost video game approach, the first person approach brings a whole new perspective to the action. Taking the fun to the warm beaches of Florida also provides Liman with a far more exciting venue, one that he leverages fully with much of the film occurring on or around water. But Liman perhaps saves the best special effects for the end credits and even includes a mid-credit scene that appears to set up a sequel. Liman has been boycotting the film due to Amazon’s decision to release it on Amazon Prime rather than on the big screen, but to be honest, the movie feels right at home on the small screen.

Little known actor, Arturo Castro, who plays Moe, one of Brandt’s henchman, steals every scene and leaves viewers wanting more. Attention Doug Liman: build a film around this character! And a special shout goes out to Austin Post (aka Post Malone) for a far too short appearance at the outset of the film.

Road House succeeds because it knows what it is – a film that doesn’t shy away from being nothing more than an over-the-top action thrill ride. It’s ridiculous. It’s mindless. But it’s also a helluva lot of fun and has the making of a new cult classic.

Road House premieres on Amazon Prime on March 21st.

Road House is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Mark Eaton
Mark is an entertainment junkie, spending much of his leisure time watching movies, TV, or listening to any and all genres of music. Most evenings, after finishing a day of work and hanging with his wife and kids, Mark can be found in an eternal battle with his DVR, trying to clear it before another 5-6 hours of shows are recorded the next day. Still reeling from his unpaid gig for the Detroit News where he was fired for being too cruel with his American Idol recaps, Mark is thrilled to be sharing his wicked sense of humor with Movie Reelists.

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