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Road House review: Jake Gyllenhaal shines in this chaotic action thriller

The Prime Video remake of the cult classic Patrick Swayze film is an improvement of the original but could have been so much more

Road House review: Jake Gyllenhaal shines in this chaotic action thriller

Last Updated: 11.20 AM, Mar 22, 2024


Story: A former UFC fighter, Elwood Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is struggling with his inner demons, reluctantly accepts an offer to become a bouncer at a beachside bar in Miami. He soon realises the idyllic-looking bar is constantly vandalised by a local biker gang at the behest of a dangerous businessman.


Review: Road House director Doug Liman is no stranger to helming excellent action films, considering his filmography includes The Bourne Identity and the criminally underrated Edge of Tomorrow. Therefore, there was plenty of optimism about Liman teaming with Jake Gyllenhaal for a remake of the 1989 Patrick Swayze film Road House. The first act of the 2024 remake promises a profound, compelling, and grounded film. However, it quickly dissipates with the introduction of former UFC champion, Conor McGregor. While the film is unhinged or even unapologetic about its caricature characters, McGregor’s performance as a menacing villain is too silly to be taken seriously as a threat to the protagonist.


There are hints of social commentary in the film’s subtext about race, class, corruption, and hostile business practices. However, the narrative fails to explore these themes with nuance and instead leans on the absurdities of its villains. From Billy Magnussen’s spoilt eccentric millionaire desperate for his incarcerated father, the ridiculous biker gang, McGregor’s over-the-top performance as Knox, and the corrupt police chief, the story fails to convince that they belong in the same reality as the protagonists. And it appears that this a deliberate creative choice – one that the writers may have fumbled with terribly.


The basic premise of the film is certainly engaging, and Gyllenhaal deserves all the credit for this. The acclaimed actor is almost effortless in how switches from a calm and reasonable individual to a deadly fighter in a matter of seconds. He is also supported by a decent ensemble cast of Daniela Melchior, Jessica Williams, Joaquim de Almeida, Austin Post, and JD Pardo among others. However, they lack sufficient character development over the course of the narrative to warrant one’s investment in them. It is disappointing as a bit more screen time for them would have significantly elevated the script. McGregor, on the other hand, to his credit does execute his over-the-top villain better than expected. But his poorly-written arc may have sabotaged his feature film debut.


Despite its many flaws, Road House is never tedious. The pacing of the narrative keeps the story engaging and Gyllenhaal’s performance adds another layer to the film. The first scene of the film where Gyllenhaal’s Dalton meets the biker gang is well-choreographed, but the showdown between Dalton and McGregor’s Knox is underwhelming. And the story’s humour shifts from subtle to slapstick in almost every scene. By the end of the film, Road House gives the impression of a film that could’ve been so much more.


Verdict: Road House embraces its caricature characters and delivers an entertaining popcorn flick. Lead star Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent in his portrayal of a conflicted protagonist. However, the story’s potential is severely under-utilised, considering it is helmed by the very capable Doug Liman.



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