Road House Review: Jake Gyllenhaal and Conor McGregor hit hard in bloody good update of 1989 classic

Road House Review: Jake Gyllenhaal and Conor McGregor hit hard in bloody good update of the 1989 classic

Road House is a loose, but lively remake of the 1989 sleazy action flick starring a tough, but kind Patrick Swayze and his gruffly handsome mentor portrayed by a wholly badass Sam Elliott. Produced by Amazon and streaming exclusively on their Prime Video platform, this updated version sees Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain, Nightcrawler) taking the lead role of Elwood Dalton, a former mixed martial arts who’s carrying around a few demons masked by his quick wit and charming-yet-mysterious demeanor.

The overall plot is essentially the same — Dalton accepts a job as a bouncer at a roadhouse that has begun to attract an unsavory clientele. While using his skills to clean things up, he unwittingly wages war with a corrupt businessman who’s been terrorizing the town for years. And like the version played by the effortlessly luminous Swayze 35 years ago, Gyllenhaal is also trying to escape a past transgression that resulted in him taking another man’s life.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Road House

Following a half-hearted attempt at taking his own life by way of a speeding train, Dalton accepts an offer from Jessica Williams’ Frankie, who needs help cleaning up a bar that her eccentric uncle left her. Making his way to the fictitious town of Glass Key, Florida with nothing but a small suitcase on wheels and a tackle doubling as a man purse, he immediately makes besties with the father-daughter duo running the island’s only bookstore before getting to work at the roadhouse appropriately named The Road House.

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The first half of the film is undeniably entertaining by way of Gyllehaal’s tranquil approach laced with the occasional quip that makes the whole thing reminiscent of a Marvel movie. However, things really ramp up when UFC megastar Conor McGregor bursts onto the scene as a skull-cracker named Knox. Strutting down a public street in his birthday suit, McGregor delivers one of the most memorable on-screen debuts in recent memory.

Conor McGregor in Road House

Rounding out the cast is Billy Magnussen (Game Night) who plays big bad businessman Ben Brandt with a perfect degree of smirkiness and Daniella Melchior (The Suicide Squad), an ER doctor who, despite being frustrated by the influx of patients Dalton brings her way, can’t help but be charmed by his chiseled abs and resolute jawline.

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Director Doug Liman Puts His Signature Style On Display in road house

By the time you get to the second hour of Road House — once all the world-building and introductions are out of the way — sh*t gets turned up to 11 with some very engaging fight sequences, including an all-out brawl that sees McGreogr’s Knox and Gyllehaal’s Dalton first throw hands. CGI enhancements during the fight sequences are noticeable at times and have a way of pulling you out of the action, but the sheer brutality and the frenetic directing of Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) should be enough to keep you entertained, especially as things continue to get more blood-soaked with each passing minute.

The film’s final act features explosions, an epic boat chase, and a final showdown that would have looked absolutely marvelous on the big screen. Sadly, we’ll never know as Amazon opted to release the film exclusively on its platform, much to the chagrin of Liman and Gyllenhaal who were clearly proud of the work they put out into the world. As they should be.

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Jake Gyllenhaal and Conor McGregor in Road House

Road House is a far from perfect picture. It’s a tad too long and one could argue that McGregor’s performance feels like nothing more than a cartoonish parody of a villain from the Fast & Furious franchise, though that is part of the charm.

Overall, Road House is a mindless popcorn flick that you can throw on anytime you want to zone out and just watch people beat the sh*t out of each other and make a few jokes along the way. It’ll likely never reach the legendary cult status of the OG film, but it’s an easy watch that should find repeat viewers.

Hell, I’ve already watched it twice and I know I’ll see it again before long. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a little dumb and a lot of fun. Sometimes that’s enough.