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Road House (2024) Review: Entertaining Enough Rush

Jake Gyllenhaal looks to his left outdoors in the night in the film Road House (2024)

Script issues keep Road House (2024) from reaching the heights of the Patrick Swayze original, but Jake Gyllenhaal and this cast give it everything they have got.

It is not an easy task, creating an updated version of something that is very beloved, but you must give Road House (2024) a ton of credit for taking the task on. Even though I am not a mega fan of the original film from 1989, starring Patrick Swayze, it is hard not to recognize it as a classic. After all, look at the impact that movie has left on popular culture (including one memorable Peter Griffin running gag on the television series Family Guy). Since I did not have the hurdle of being a fan, it gave me the chance to judge this reimagining in large part for what it is.

Set in the present day, Road House centers on Elwood Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal) an ex-UFC fighter with a complex past. His life isn’t really going anywhere when he is approached by Frankie (Jessica Williams), owner of a roadhouse in the Florida Keys. She hires Dalton to be her new bouncer, but he soon discovers that this job in a majestic location is much more trouble than it seems.

Jake Gyllenhaal is not doing a Patrick Swayze impression and that works in the film’s favor. He brings the movie star energy and there are plenty of moments where his dry delivery makes these lines funnier. He also naturally has gotten ripped for the role of ex UFC fighter turned bouncer Dalton, turning him into much more of a badass. You would forgive me if I was a little skeptical going in of his ability to do that, but Gyllenhaal is a natural in these fight sequences. It is a joy watching Dalton punch goons in the face and take some hits because Gyllenhaal along with cinematographer Henry Braham sell them so well.

Dalton gets the most depth as the protagonist, but Gyllenhaal’s performance does more for this character than the script. His reserved facial expressions and pitch perfect work during the film’s more dramatic moments make Dalton fascinating. If you had anyone but Gyllenhaal in the role, there is little doubt that Road House would have crashed and burned. This is because this narrative strips Dalton of aspects that made him memorable in the 1989 original.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Conor McGregor face each other in the film Road House (2024)
Jake Gyllenhaal and Conor McGregor star in Road House (2024) (Laura Radford / Prime Video, Amazon MGM Studios)

The cast is also bolstered by the performances of Daniela Melchior and Hannah Lanier as Ellie and Charlie. Both are given your standard 80s characters on paper and find ways to make them feel human. The character could have used more depth in the writing department, but as far as love interests go, Ellie is not half bad thanks to Melchior. Her charisma gives Ellie a believable heart of gold.

Lanier becomes an unexpected scene stealer as Charlie, the daughter of a local bookstore owner in Road House. While her character helps check off some tired trope boxes, the teenager’s work is far from the issue. She makes Charlie a funny and likable presence which ensures audiences will care what happens to her. This young actress could be someone to watch moving forward after her appearance here.

Then there is the curious case of Conor McGregor, which acts as a bit of a pro and con. On one hand, McGregor as Knox is basically an exaggerated version of the former UFC champion in real life. Yet, he is just so much and impossible not to find enjoyable. There is little doubt that Knox is also a better villain than Billy Magnussen as Ben Brandt, with all due respect to Magnussen. McGregor gives an unhinged performance and makes Knox oddly loveable.

You must give Conor McGregor credit for taking his first film role ever, fitting in well, and just obviously having a ball whenever the cameras are on him. Knox also serves as an interesting opposite to Jake Gyllenhaal’s Dalton, because, unlike our protagonist, he embraces his darkness fully and honestly loves committing these heinous crimes. Dalton holds everything in and only lets that side out when necessary. It is very compelling in more ways than one when these two go toe-to-toe.

Director Doug Liman is no stranger to the action genre and was a solid pick for this project. While the action is for the most part not as brutal as the original Road House, it still looks pretty darn cool. That is a credit to Liman and Henry Braham crafting awesome fights that utilize every inch of their setting and finding new ways to capture kicks and punches. However, a criticism I have is that this duo might have done a little too much in the action department as the film barrels toward its conclusion. You can be unrealistic, especially in something like this, but Liman and writers Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry can find themselves doing so much that the developments become laughable in the worst ways.

Road House (2024) (Prime Video)

The narrative does not do much to separate itself from the 1989 film of the same name. In fact, Road House (2024) functions as an update of an 80s film with new characters in every way. Here’s the thing, though: Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry forget to remove or subvert most of the 80s era tropes, instead opting to repeat many of them. If audiences wanted to see the same things, they would just watch the Swayze version instead. Setting this story in the present day, having terrific performances, and compelling action can only do so much. Especially when you consider that this script is littered with stereotypical pitfalls, half-baked characters, and seems to go on just a tad too long.

Indeed, at just over two hours, the film feels a bit too long despite not giving us much insight into characters other than Dalton. The action sequences take up a lot of that time, but even they overstay their welcome. All these criticisms are not to say that Road House is not entertaining; it is, but the flaws it has might be too much for some.

2024’s Road House is likely the best thing that we could have gotten from an updated version of the 80s gem. It is not outstanding in every aspect, but it manages to throw some haymakers.

Road House (2024) will be released globally on Prime Video on March 21, 2024.

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