A flat remake

A flat remake

Doug Liman's Road House proves that lightning doesn't strike twice

A flat remake
Jake Gyllenhaal, right, and Conor McGregor in Road House.

Despite initial disappointment and a lukewarm box office reception, the 1989 classic Road House has become a cult favourite over the years. Fast forward to 2024, and director Doug Liman hopes to recreate the same blend of absurd action and charismatic heroism with a revamped version of Road House featuring Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role (originally portrayed by the late Patrick Swayze). While Liman's adaptation retains the over-the-top spirit, it struggles to capture the same magic that made the original a cult classic.

Liman, known for his work on adrenaline-fuelled blockbusters like The Bourne Identity (2002) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014) brings a seasoned hand to the action sequences. The film pulses with energy during intense bare-knuckle fights, expertly choreographed to showcase Gyllenhaal's physical prowess and the gritty realism of bar combat. Liman's mastery behind the camera is evident as each punch is accompanied by bone-crunching sounds that immerse viewers in the brutal world of bouncers and back-alley showdowns. Just like the original, this film feels very over the top. This is a movie where people are stabbed, not once but multiple times, but still get up and walk away. There's also people flying off of boats and somehow surviving.

Where Road House falters is in its narrative depth and character development. Clocking in at two hours, the film struggles to justify its duration with a plot that feels overly familiar and lacking in surprises. It is too long for what the story actually is. The plot is thin and predictable and it fails to establish any real emotional connection. The antagonists, led by a stereotypical mafia boss, come across as caricatures rather than fully realised characters. The dialogue also attempts to capture the machismo of the original but it falls flat as it relies too heavily on clichés and predictable exchanges.

Gyllenhaal's portrayal of a rugged bouncer brings a certain gravitas to the role and showcases his dedication to physicality and character immersion. His journey from ex-Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter to reluctant town protector is compelling, but even Gyllenhaal's magnetic presence struggles to elevate a script that treads familiar territory.

One bright spot in the film is the subplot involving a local bookstore owner and his daughter as it brings some moments of heartfelt emotion amid bar brawls and criminal intrigue. These characters provide a glimpse into the quieter more human side of the story and provide a respite from relentless action sequences and one-dimensional villains.

Road House (2024). (Photos: Prime Video Thailand)

In hindsight, the decision to revisit Road House raises questions about the necessity of remakes in modern cinema. While Liman's adaptation retains the adrenaline of the original, it also highlights the challenges of capturing lightning in a bottle twice. The film teeters between honouring its roots and forging a new path, occasionally stumbling in its attempts to balance nostalgia with contemporary storytelling sensibilities.

The latest Road House is a mixed bag of exhilarating action and narrative shortcomings. Liman's directorial prowess shines in adrenaline-charged fight scenes, bolstered by Gyllenhaal's committed performance. However, the film's lack of narrative innovation and underdeveloped characters prevent it from achieving the same cult status as its predecessor. While fans of the genre may find moments of enjoyment, newcomers may struggle to connect to a story that feels like an echo of past glories rather than a bold reinvention.

Jake Gyllenhaal as bouncer Elwood Dalton.

  • Road House
  • Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Daniela Melchior, Conor McGregor
  • Directed by Doug Liman
  • Now streaming on Prime Video
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