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Road House (2024)

Road House movie poster

So a couple of nights ago I watched one of the latest remakes of yet another beloved movie from my youth.

Road House (2024)

Ever since the announcement that this film was being made all I’ve seen is negativity towards it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of remakes, but every now and then there’s one that catches my attention. In this case the involvement of Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s a pretty decent actor and one who seems to have a certain amount of integrity when it comes to the projects he takes, was enough to make me curious about what a remake of this film could be like.

If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a new action thriller directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow), starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Southpaw), Billy Magnussen (Game Night), Daniela Melchior (The Suicide Squad) and former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, Conor McGregor in his feature film debut.

It’s a remake of the 1989 cult classic of the same name starring the late Patrick Swayze.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“Ex-UFC fighter Dalton (Gyllenhaal) takes a job as a bouncer at a Florida Keys roadhouse, only to discover that this paradise is not all it seems.”

I really hate it when people write off a movie before they’ve even seen it. It’s so ignorant, and when it comes to remakes this happens a lot. I get it, we hate the legacy of our favourite films being tampered with, but guess what, we have a choice whether to watch them or not.

It’s also worth remembering that younger generations might not have seen the originals to some of these remakes, or even be able to relate to them in the same way we do because of the era. Why not then introduce them to the stories in a way that they’ll find engaging?

Remakes for the most part are rarely as good as the originals for a multitude of reasons. We all know it by now. Time has proven as much. But did you realise films like A Fistful of Dollars (1964), The Magnificent Seven (1960), Scarface (1983), Cape Fear (1991), The Departed (2006), The Money Pit (1986), Three Men and a Baby (1987), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), The Mummy (1999) and Father of the Bride (1991) are all remakes?

I get tired of seeing people say “it won’t be as good as the original”. That’s like saying water’s wet! Still, if a remake looks or sounds interesting I’ll watch it out of sheer curiosity.

By the way I’m a big fan of the original Road House, so if anyone should’ve had a reason to complain it’s me. I’ve seen it more times than I could tell you and it’s one of those films that I consider a “comfort movie” (a movie that’s effortless to watch and infinitely re-watchable).

And that brings me (finally) to my spoiler-free review.

Leading up to the release of this movie the only thing I was concerned about was the fact that Conor McGregor was in it. I knew he could fight, but could he act…? As it happens, he can, at least enough for what’s required of him in this film.

Based on what I saw in the trailer I went in knowing it was going to be very different to the original, and for that reason I found myself not comparing the two all that much. They’re so different in fact that it’s easy to enjoy this new one as its own thing. That’s not to say there aren’t nods or even similarities to the original (that was always going the be the case), but those things, thankfully don’t feel forced.

Jake Gyllenhaal, as I suspected does a good job as the main character, Dalton. He’s likeable, fairly believable in a tough-guy role (if you’ve seen Southpaw you’d already know that wasn’t going to be an issue), and the fight scenes between him and McGregor, who plays one of the film’s antagonists, are brutal and some of the best scenes in the movie.

In contrast to the events of the original which was set in Jasper, Missouri, this remake relocates to the trendier and tropical setting of the Florida Keys, where Dalton’s bouncer/cooler services are required at a prime beach-front-located bar rather than the back-water blues club of the 1989 film. The bar in this new version is simply called “The Road House” replacing "The Double Duce" from the original, however, they’ve given that a nice, subtle nod by including it (look out for the cafe next to the book shop).

Everything about the film feels modern and very stylish. From shots that sometimes feel like a Michael Bay movie to some that almost look like they were filmed on a GoPro, it’s a million miles from the slower paced, unassuming feel of the original which also goes a long way to establish it as it’s very own movie rather than a simple retelling of the same story.

The story, as similar as it is to the 1989 film is also quite different. The villain has a different agenda with ties to some dodgy goings on, and Gyllenhaal’s Dalton has an entirely different past to Swayze’s which we get hints at via flashbacks throughout the film.

There’s a healthy dose of humour, particularly from some of the bad guys, a bit of romance, some much more elaborate fight scenes, and an entirely different soundtrack (I love The Jeff Healey Band in the original), all of which though bring it up to date for modern audiences. In fact, while it uses the original film’s plot as a roadmap it also incorporates elements of other movies like Into The Blue (2005) and (to an extent) Fool’s Gold (2008).

All in all I’d say in terms of remakes that genuinely set out to retell the story rather than to simply cash in on it, this one is one of the slightly more creative ones and I actually really enjoyed it.

Having said all that, and it’s probably just a sign of today’s filmmaking, everything about this movie feels ramped up and slightly over the top. The original has a much more relaxed approach to telling the story, and a charm that this one lacks. There’s also much more story to tell in the 1989 version.

The one thing I wasn’t keen on with this film is how it feels compelled to constantly push or remind us that Dalton is a hard-ass. We know! But the original didn’t do that. We believed that Swayze’s character knew how to handle himself, but at the same time had a vulnerability that Gyllenhaal’s character doesn’t appear to have. It made Swayze’s Dalton more human and easier to root for. The characters and their relationships with each other in the original are also much deeper and better established which makes you more invested as an audience.

Like I said though, I’ve noticed this with a lot of the movies that come out these days. They’re all flashy on the surface with not a lot going on underneath. That’s not to say this film isn’t enjoyable or even worth seeing, I just think that audiences today demand a lot less than we did back in the 80s and 90s, and therefore filmmakers are simply giving us what we’ll accept and not a lot more - and at the end of the day that’s our own fault.

If you watch this film to see how it compares to the original you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you can manage to separate yourself from your love of it and watch this as a totally different movie you might just enjoy it for what it is, and that’s a fun beat-'em-up romp that’ll easily keep you entertained for a couple of hours.

Will it have a legacy like the original? I doubt it, but then you could say that about most of the films released in recent years. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the original has taken years to gain its cult status and is listed among “the most enjoyable bad movies ever made” in The Official Razzie Movie Guide.

Don’t not watch this film out of ignorance or stubbornness. Give it a go. At best you’ll be pleasantly surprised, at worst you wont be any more disappointed than you expect to be, but at least you’ll have given it the benefit of the doubt.

You can stream it on Amazon Prime Video.

Seen it? What did you think?

Let me know in the comments.

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