Jake Gyllenhaal cropped from the Road House poster | Agents of Fandom

SXSW 2024: The ‘Road House’ Remake Fails To Land All of Its Punches

Some ‘Roadhouse’ performances are knock outs, while others fall flat on the floor.

SXSW 2024 is offering some pretty big headliners this year — David Leitch’s The Fall Guy starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt, Dev Patel‘s directorial feature film Monkey Man, and Road House, the much anticipated Doug Liman remake of the 1989 cult classic starring Patrick Swayze. Opening night of the festival kicked off with Road House, a film that is fun but ultimately soulless.

How Similar Is Doug Liman’s ‘Road House’ to the Original?

Jake Gyllenhaal stares down a potential opponent that is out of frame as he flexes his muscles in preparation for a fight in Road House. I Agents of Fandom
Jake Gyllenhaal certainly looks the part, but how does that translate in Road House? Image Courtesy: Amazon Studios.

Road House follows Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he is running a simple conman scheme out of bars — walking in with a baggy hoodie and sweats on, putting up money to fight in the less-than-regulated fighting ring. He then reveals his incredibly jacked body and face that carries a legacy of top-tier fighting abilities only to scare off his opponent and keep all the winnings for himself.

Not a bad way to make some money and not really work. Frankie (Jessica Williams) finds him after a fight and makes her case as to why he should provide his famed bouncer services and reestablish her bar, The Road House, as a safe place in Glass Key, Florida. Dalton isn’t interested.

That is until he nearly kills himself playing chicken with an oncoming train and his small beater of a car. Narrowly escaping the clutches of death, he heads south to Glass Key to take Frankie up on her offer. Much aligned with the original film, The Road House, called Double Duece in the 1989 version, is a complete dump featuring drunk patrons fighting incessantly and a band forced to play behind a chickenwire fence for their safety.

Ben Brandt (Billy Magnussen) and his group of cronies soon start to terrorize Dalton, The Road House, and other establishments across the sunshine-soaked town. It’s at this point that the film finally induces some of its own juice, bringing in ex-con Knox (Conor McGregor) to clean up the mess that Brandt and his squad can’t quite accomplish.

‘Road House’ Review: Even a Great Jake Gyllenhaal Can’t Save This Soulless Remake

Knox (Conor McGregor, left) squares up face to face against Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal, right) before they throw punches in the remake of Road House I Agents of Fandom
Knox (Conor McGregor, left) squares up against Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal, right) before they throw punches in the remake of Road House. Image Courtesy: Amazon Studios

Of course, when a UFC champion is playing the big bad against a ripped Jake Gyllenhaal, you’re going to get good fight scenes. This movie knows that and capitalizes on it in an effective way. With sound design fit for a theater-going experience (it’s a damn shame this won’t be seeing silver screens nationwide), the movie emphasizes its brutal action scenes that come swiftly and fiercely, earning the movie an A+ in the fun department.

Where the movie falls flat is everywhere else — the chemistry between Daniela Melchior and Jake Gyllenhall is practically nonexistent, the ancillary characters retain a character depth of near zero, and the overall plot is wishy-washy at best.

Jake Gyllenhaal is allowed to be both hot and funny in this movie — a combination that he so rarely gets to embody — and it works. He brings his offbeat, perfectly timed humor to the role of Dalton which makes the movie feel breezy and quick; again an A+ in the fun department. He also offers up some impressive fight scenes that are shot with verve and energy, capturing an updated feel to the Western-style storyline.

Yet even that is not enough to divert from the ultimate distraction of Conor McGregor, someone who is clearly cast more for his punching abilities and than his acting prowess. He brings a gritty and dark tone to the film but fails to be anything more than a punching fiend for our hero, as do many of his admittedly funny comrades.

The movie blunders in harnessing a sense of heart and purpose, making this remake feel like a complete, well, studio remake. It will undoubtedly be an entertaining flick to fire up on a weeknight on Amazon Prime when it releases straight to the streaming service on March 21, but it will most likely fizzle into the streaming oblivion quickly after. It really cements the idea that “they don’t make ’em like they used to,” even if Jake Gyllenhaal looks pretty cool when he punches guys in the throat.

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'Road House' SXSW 2024 Review

'Road House' SXSW 2024 Review
3 5 0 1
Total Score

The Good

  • Fiery fight scenes offer up some pretty sick action.
  • Excels in the humor department even if its overplayed.

The Bad

  • A tried and true soulless studio remake with no heart.
  • Conor McGregor is miscast and distracting.
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