Capsule Review: Road House (2024) – Jake Gyllenhaal Led the Bloody, Though Overstretched B-Movie Fun of an Action Movie

Why? That’s the first question in my mind upon learning about Road House getting a reboot years ago. The late Patrick Swayze-starred 1989 movie of the same name was a product of its time. The kind of quintessential, testosterone-driven beat ’em-up action movie that defined the 1980s genre conventions. The original Road House was a cult classic and it’s hard to imagine anyone else other than Swayze pulling off such a charismatic, no-nonsense role of a cooler cleaning up the mess.

Well, thirty-five years after the 1989 original, here we are — a reboot that I figured was unnecessary in the first place turns out to be a reasonably entertaining action movie after all. I’m glad Doug Liman alongside screenwriters Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry doesn’t attempt to emulate the exact look and feel of the Patrick Swayze version reminiscent of a lazy scene-for-scene reboot.

The basis of the story, of course, remains intact: An owner of a roadside bar, Frankie (Jessica Williams) is looking to recruit someone reliable to maintain order in her establishment. That someone in question is Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal), who used to be a former UFC fighter. She pays him good money and he agrees to travel all over to Florida Keys (the original takes place in Jasper, Missouri), where the bar — literally called the Road House — is located in the fictional town of Glass Key.

Whereas the original is about a ruthless crime lord who rules the town with an iron fist, the 2024 reboot sees a young, wealthy heir (Billy Magnussen) want to shut down the Road House for good to make way for building a resort. He sends over his henchmen to take care of it but with Dalton taking care of the roadside bar’s security, none of them can accomplish the feat.

Let’s get one thing straight: Jake Gyllenhaal is no Patrick Swayze but he manages to hold his own. His version of Dalton is more of a mercurial, wisecracking bruiser with a bottled-up anger-management issue. We learn that he has a dark past during his UFC days and the way he hurts people is something that Liman’s direction excels the most. The director ensures every punch is both visceral and palpable. Even a scene where one of the unfortunate bad guys gets his fingers fractured like a twig.

It also helps that Gyllenhaal’s washboard abs and muscular build look convincing enough as a UFC fighter. Whether he single-handedly takes down a group of arrogant bikers in the earlier scene or engages in a brutal, fight-to-the-death showdown against Conor McGregor’s Knox, kudos to Gyllenhaal’s physically demanding performance and Liman’s dynamic camerawork.

Speaking of Conor McGregor, the former UFC champion-turned-actor in his feature debut sure knows how to make an entrance as a cocky henchman, Knox. Billy Magnussen made quite an impression as a smug antagonist, Brandt but the otherwise stunning Daniela Melchior is wasted in her thankless supporting turn as Dalton’s love interest, Ellie. Their chemistry is practically non-existent.

The 2024 reboot runs two hours long and there are times when the movie tends to veer off course with its unnecessarily convoluted plot points. I’m not sure why Liman feels the need to crank the otherwise brutal and grounded fight choreography with an over-the-top stretch of a boat explosion and chase, complete with spotty CGI that feels like it belongs to another movie.

If you can get past some of the movie’s shortcomings, Doug Liman’s version of Road House is worth checking out and above all, he manages to redeem himself after the disastrous Chaos Walking.

Road House is currently streaming on Prime Video.