Road House — Same Town, New Story, huh, Pal?

[L to R] Conor McGregor and Jake Gyllenhaal as Knox and Dalton in Road House (2024). Amazon MGM Studios.

Road House is roundhouse kicking its way onto Amazon Prime. This remake of the 1989 cult classic that starred Patrick Swayze is bound to have detractors sight unseen. Yet the trailer that recently arrived shows a respectful take alongside some new narrative directions.

The central premise revolves around Jake Gyllenhaal as Elwood Dalton. Once a top tier UFC fighter, he’s fallen into a transient life: grabbing what cash he can in shady underground bouts. Enter actor Jessica Williams as the owner of a roadhouse in the Florida Keys. Not only does she need help cooling the rowdy crowd that frequents her bar, but a crooked land developer also wants to push her out to buy the land. Into this thorny tangle, Dalton dives butting heads, slapping fools, and charming locals.

There’s a lot to like in this trailer. Initial flashes of choreographed combat hint at some frenetic fight scenes. Jake Gyllenhaal easily has the charm necessary to assume the role Patrick Swayze established. The same could be said of Daniela Melchior (The Suicide Squad, Valor da Vida) taking over the part Kelly Lynch portrayed. The trailer contains at least one exchange that hints at memorable dialogue recycled well. It’s safe to say this version of Road House isn’t taking itself too seriously. Good thing they have comedic talents like Arturo Castro to help in that respect.

The only moment of pause is the presence of Connor McGregor. He appears to be cast as the main villain’s most dangerous goon. Physically, he fits the bill. However, whether the former MMA fighter can act remains to be seen. This is his first major role, having appeared in a few advertisements and done some minor voice-over work in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Still, he’s conceptually believable as a bruiser, so odds are good he won’t hurt the film. He certainly looks like he’s enjoying himself. (And even if he isn’t the most skillful performer onscreen, a few sips of Proper No. Twelve will likely make watching him more pleasant, eh mijo?)

The original Road House is a guilty pleasure. It rules a corner of the so-bad-it’s-good cineverse which could only come out of the 1980s. Like all such flicks, the original succeeded for fans because everyone involved took it seriously, and this trailer offers that same sense of total commitment. Filmmakers may have leaned into any potential humor, but they don’t seem to be disrespecting the story fans enjoy.

Changes have obviously been made to the plot. Whether they work in favor of the film is another question. In a way, the remake’s general narrative does feel like a generic action movie. That’s not to say the original flick is a complex dive into the human condition. However, there’s room for concern, especially these days, that filmmakers are nostalgia baiting audiences. It calls to mind the pathetic sequel Road House 2 (2006), a film so bad it should end with an apology.

That said, the trailer for this Road House smartly leaves out some details spurring curiosity in the process. There’s a notable absence of Wade Garrett, played by Sam Elliott back in ‘89. Since the original premise of top bouncers drifting around the country like hired guns is gone, it’ll be interesting to see how they incorporate that character. I’m also curious what musicians might be assuming the roles originally occupied by The Jeff Healey Band.

Solid action, a majority of good performers, and a director, Doug Liman, with a decent action resume. The trailer for Road House doesn’t suggest it’s going in any terribly new directions, but following the old action formula isn’t necessarily bad either. It’ll be interesting to see how filmmakers create their own movie while incorporating nostalgia bits for fans.

Directed by Doug Liman, written by Anthony Bagarozzi & Charles Mondry, and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Daniela Melchior, Billy Magnussen, and Jessica Williams, Road House arrives on Prime Video March 21st, 2024.

Written by Jay Rohr

J. Rohr is a Chicago native with a taste for history and wandering the city at odd hours. In order to deal with the more corrosive aspects of everyday life he writes the blog and makes music in the band Beerfinger. His Twitter babble can be found @JackBlankHSH.

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