Road House Review

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Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis:

The remake to the Patrick Swayze classic follows a similar formula with some fresh twists. Dalton, a former UFC fighter, takes a job at a roadhouse in the Florida Keys. He establishes some order in the establishment but ultimately finds that some of the locals aren’t a fan of his influence. Dalton must prepare for escalation and violence to protect his new employer. But once Dalton gets upset…these troublemakers begin to wonder if they’ve gone too far.  

Positives:

I actually hadn’t seen the original “Road House” until I planned to watch this one. I figured having a background with the classic material would be helpful. Admittedly, I preferred the original to the remake. That being said, the remake creates a lot of unique distinctions from the first that make it feel fresh and modern. The original film was clearly a product of its time. This retelling nicely updates the setting to Florida instead of Kansas City, creating a different environment and a new conflict. Instead of the mystique behind Swayze’s character, Jake Gyllenhaal has a worthwhile take on the character.  He mirrors all of the qualities we liked about Dalton but gives us a lighter version that has a UFC background. He doesn’t take himself as seriously as Swayze but manages to find lots of charisma to supplement his placement in the story. The UFC addition gives an interesting background to Dalton, leaving us more to ponder about his life. The “be nice” side of the character is still front and center though. Props to Gyllenhaal for giving audiences a breath of fresh air while respecting the original. 

The film is hyper stylized, much like the original. But instead of a tacky 80’s aesthetic, “Road House” provides a style of its own with a completely different setting and distinct fight sequences. I like that we are in the tropics this time, where new areas of crime, set pieces, and conflict can be explored. The story does a nice job at keeping the DNA of the original story, but providing a new villain and background for Dalton. The fights are filmed in a much different way this time. Some of them were immersive and visceral. I’d guess they were meant to make the audience feel as if they’re in the middle of the skirmish. The concluding fight between Dalton and Knox was very over the top and violent. I enjoyed every second of it! While I was rolling my eyes at the absurdity of the story at that point, their brutal blows to one another had me on the edge of my seat. I’d even say this fight was better than any from the original. To me, this retelling of “Road House” does enough right to feel inventive while staying true to its roots. 

Negatives:

Although I enjoyed this remake, it doesn’t quite live up to the legacy of the original. That being said, I enjoyed it enough to warrant a recommendation. The main drawback for most viewers will be the level of absurdity they’re willing to overlook. Some may think this is an absolutely preposterous story that has no redeeming qualities outside of a few cool fights. But if silly action dramas are of interest, “Road House” might be a good choice to throw on after work. I found myself chuckling at the absurdity in the film. Most of it felt like it belonged in the film. But even I got to a point where I thought the story had gone completely off the rails by the end. The original film (while ridiculous) stayed within a certain lane that felt a bit more believable. This movie doubles down on everything…the fighting AND absurdity. Take that with a grain of salt as I’m sure most viewers will know their limits. 

Another aspect I thought the film lacked was character connections to one another. Dalton’s relationship with his peers and town members in the original felt more genuine. Their struggles with corruption all felt shared. Here, there are only a few members I thought Dalton really connected to, particularly book store owners Charlie and Stephen. His relationship with the roadhouse owner and villains didn’t quite hit the same this time around. I also thought Billy Magnussen’s villain was cartoonishly douchey. He is performed well…but the levels of arrogance he displayed were too intense for me. 

Conclusion:

“Road House” does enough right to justify its existence. It takes some turns to give us a fresh story. This nice blend of elements should make fans of the original happy while encouraging newcomers to check out the old one. Gyllenhaal commits to this character nicely, giving Dalton a fresh makeover for the modern times. I’d say the trailer gives a good indication if the movie will fit someone’s interest. So if it seems like a good time, check it out! But if it’s too silly, no shame in skipping this one. It’s a fun ride to say the least!