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'Road House' movie review with Casey T. Allen

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Movie poster for the action film "Road House"
Theatrical movie release poster

After watching the remake of Road House on Amazon Prime, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, I had two thoughts persist in my mind.

#1. I will never have the chiseled abs of a movie star or professional athlete.

And #2. The qualities of a traditionally masculine hero are so sparse in my life, I'm not sure I can even claim to be a man anymore.

The testosterone in this film is turned up to such a high level in so many scenes, I actually started to feel physically drained.

This Road House film is not a sequel but a remake of the original 1989 film starring Patrick Swayze (Ghost, 1990) and directed by Rowdy Herrington (who made a brief mark on the action genre in the 1990s). The 1989 original is super campy with unrealistic fighting and a simplified message about local small business owners holding steadfast against local corporate greed.

With that source material in mind, this Road House remake does not try to be something hugely different or more highbrow than its predecessor, nor does it need to be.

Jake Gyllenhaal (Ambulance, 2022) plays a former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) competitor who is recruited to be a bouncer for a bar on a quiet beach in the Florida Keys. But cleaning out the violent locals every night brings the wrath of a powerful man who stops at nothing to take ownership of the bar and build greater dominance on the island.

So this remake is successful at being similar enough to the original. It brings the same message of small business vs. corporate gluttony, and it has a similar vibe of macho campiness with supporting performances by Billy Magnussen (Game Night, 2018) and real-life UFC celebrity Conor McGregor (in his first feature film role). Both these men love chewing the scenery and filling out their villainous roles.

The fight scenes in Road House are believably raw and have an unexpectedly cinematic look that makes them the only interesting parts of this film. (The multiple stabbings help bring the fighting up a notch too!) If director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, 2014) and the team of three screenwriters and storybuilders put as much work and attention into the dialogue and acting as they did into the rough & tumble scenes of hand-to-hand manliness, Road House could have had some emotional depth worth talking about.

But I get the feeling this film was never about telling a unique or articulate story. Even from the beginning concept of doing this remake, it was probably all about virile men showing off how to throw a good punch. Too bad for me since I was expecting more.

 

Casey T. Allen is a native of Utah who graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree in English in 2007. He has worked in many capacities throughout USU campus and enjoys his time at UPR to continually exercise his writing.