Advertisement

Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Road House ”remake is pulpy, bone-crunching fun

A jacked Gyllenhaal stars in Doug Liman’s remake of the 1989 Patrick Swayze classic.

It’s been 35 years since Patrick Swayze taught us that pain don’t hurt. Released in 1989, Rowdy Herrington’s original Road House has since become a camp classic, the kind of blood-spattered, charmingly stupid action movie that probably played on TV throughout your childhood. (I was likely way too young the first time I caught it on cable, but it became a family favorite, and to this day, my cousins and I still like to quote absurdist lines like “A polar bear fell on me.”)

Over the years, Hollywood has made a few attempts to recapture the same bone-crunching magic, including a forgotten direct-to-video sequel in 2006 and an abandoned remake that was supposed to star pro wrestler Ronda Rousey. Now, Jake Gyllenhaal is taking up Swayze’s muscular mantle, headlining an Amazon Prime Video remake that’s just as dumb and just as fun as the original.

<p>Everett Collection</p> Jake Gylenhaal in 'Road House'

Everett Collection

Jake Gylenhaal in 'Road House'

Director Doug Liman transplants the action from Missouri to the Florida Keys, where local woman Frankie (Jessica Williams) owns a beachside bar called — you guessed it — the Road House. It’s an idyllic Glass Key establishment that’s been in Frankie’s family for generations, but recently, a number of motorcycle-riding hooligans have been terrorizing the bar and scaring away respectable clientele. Desperate to hire a bouncer, Frankie finds her man in Elwood Dalton (Gyllenhaal), a former pro fighter who now earns cash in a seedy underground fighting ring. A one-time famous UFC fighter, Dalton has since fallen from grace, and his reputation is so bloody that his opponents in the ring would rather tap out than face him. The gig at Frankie’s sounds like the perfect opportunity to put his skills to good use — and maybe find some redemption along the way.

What ensues is part wannabe Western, part cartoonish punch-fest, as Dalton hits, kicks, and pummels any sleazy baddies who are unlucky enough to cross his path. (But don’t worry: He’s the kind of nice guy who will drive his foes to the emergency room after breaking every bone in their bodies.) The plot is your standard B-movie fare, as scheming real estate tycoon Ben Brandt (Billy Magnussen) sends a horde of goons after Dalton, eager to acquire Frankie’s valuable beachside location. Actual pro fighter Conor McGregor also pops up to chew scenery — and noses — as an unhinged enforcer named Knox.

But Road House knows that you came for the punches not the plot, and Liman delivers on that front, capturing every broken bottle and slap with glee. Liman’s camera zooms around the Road House with frenetic energy, following Dalton as he crashes through tables or flips over the bar, glass raining down on his head. Liman made headlines earlier this year when he announced that he’d be boycotting the film’s SXSW premiere to protest Amazon’s decision to skip theaters and send Road House straight to streaming. (He later walked back that protest, making an appearance at the Austin premiere in March.) And it’s hard not to mourn how Road House might have played in a packed theater, audiences cheering at every gravity-defying kick.  

But it’s Gyllenhaal who elevates all the chaos, and there’s a distinct joy in watching Dalton leave a trail of bruises. The Oscar nominee always shines when he gets to play a little bit crazy, bugging out those signature blue eyes to unsettling effect. (Think of his screeching eccentricity in Okja or his manic gyrating in John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch.) Here, he brings that same unhinged energy to Dalton, and although the bouncer may seem stoic, there’s a giddy glee flickering in his eyes every time he smashes a bottle over a bad guy’s head. He’ll break your teeth in, but he’ll check to make sure you have health insurance before he does.

Not everything here works: The third act leaves the bar and veers into more traditional action-movie territory, trading down-to-earth punches for cartoonish boat chases and explosions. And your mileage may vary on McGregor’s zany performance: The Irish mixed martial artist plays Knox like a Looney Tunes villain sprung to life, the kind of chaotic baddie who cackles, “Time to go clubbing” before smashing up a car with a golf club. But in an era of gritty reboots and self-serious spinoffs, there’s something delightful about how Road House embraces the cheese. This is a movie where the beaches are breezy and the punches are brutal. Pain don’t hurt, but it’s also never been so much fun.

Grade: B+

Want more movie news? Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free newsletter to get the latest trailers, celebrity interviews, film reviews, and more.

Related content:

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.