Road House: Prime Video Movie Review starring Jake Gyllenhaal

Our review of Road House, remake with Jake Gyllenhaal directed by Doug Liman, arriving on Prime Video starting Thursday 21 March.

Image Credit: Amazon MGM Studios

In the beginning, it was the film Road House by Rowdy Herrington; released in theaters during 1989, ideally closed the decade with an over-the-top, disengaged, and acrobatic action thriller embellished with Patrick Swayze who was building a post-Dirty Dancing acting career as a new sex symbol and "Hollywood tough guy" ”. About 35 years after his firstborn, director Doug Liman decides to accept the offer from Amazon and MGM Studios and takes charge behind the camera of the Road House remake, starring a pumped-up Jake Gyllenhaal.

In our review of Road House, arriving exclusively on the Prime Video film catalog from Thursday 21 March, we will tell you why the contemporary remake of the cult film from the late '80s doesn't work on multiple levels and ambitions, leaving a widespread feeling of discontent and missed opportunities. Luckily there is Jake Gyllenhaal and his charisma in front of the camera, otherwise, we would certify Road House as one of the first, great cinematic disappointments of 2024.

Image Credit: Amazon MGM Studios

From Missouri to Florida: a question of remake

James Dalton is a former middleweight mixed martial arts professional who works in club security in New York City. Although stoic and calm, Dalton is haunted by the memory of a man he killed in self-defense by slashing his throat. When Frankie (Jessica Williams) recruits Dalton to take over security at her club, the Double Deuce in Florida, she plans to invest significant funds in the dilapidated club and needs Dalton's highly regarded skills to deal with the endemic violence and rude clientele. Dalton accepts in exchange for full authority over the club's operations, immediately firing several employees for misconduct, theft, and drug dealing. In doing so, however, he will go against the area's crime lord, Knox (Conor McGregor), who controls the area through corruption, intimidation, and violence.

If the original film directed by Rowdy Harrington took place in the depths of Missouri, the remake entrusted to Doug Liman moves from New York City to Florida, the backdrop for the most exciting action scenes of the film produced by Amazon Studios and MGM. Which, all things considered, would also work perfectly if it had been an original and unpretentious product, when instead Doug Liman tries to pay homage to the 1989 cult on several occasions, trying to make us forget as quickly as possible the discreet charisma of the late Patrick Swayze. He can't, of course.

If you look closely, Road House is more of a remake intended for the vast pool of contemporary spectators than for the nostalgic audience of the previous generation who in a certain way had grown up during the glittering and energetic '80s and who, as that unprecedented decade, he had seen the entertaining Road House Tough Guy with Patrick Swayze at the cinema. That feature film, all adrenaline, punches, male bodies in plain sight, up-to-the-minute machismo, and irresistible electronic soundtrack of the period, was not well received by the industry critics of the time, but thanks to a solid fan base of enthusiasts and spectators niche, managed to create a huge niche for itself in the following years, thus becoming one of the last cults of the '80s.

We therefore have to ask ourselves what is the primary function of Road House directed by Doug Liman and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Thirty-five years after Herrington's feature film, nothing remains other than a story for the big (or small?) screen full of muscles, uncontrolled action, and the amused charisma of its protagonist. But all this, although commendably framed within a B-Movie picture from a streaming platform, cannot and must not be enough, because it is an end in itself, ultimately.

Image Credit: Amazon MGM Studios

Not even Jake Gyllenhaal can save the Road House

He is an end in himself because he has no reason to exist. The 1989 feature film, although set without any artistic pretension on the frequency of the light-hearted B-Movie, had on its side the attractive and magnetic figure of Swayze as the last of the greatest icons of American cinema of the '80s; the same face in front of the camera that in 1987, two years before the worldwide release of The Road House Tough Guy, had enchanted an audience of female spectators with his sensual dance moves in Emile's Dirty Dancing Ardolino. 

And here, in the role of a very blond tough guy full of muscles and justice, he put himself on the line so as not to fall into the trap of typecasting again (the year after Road House he took part in Ghost – Fantasma, and it was a global success). For Jake Gyllenhaal, although physically adequate for the role of James Dalton (on the set of Doug Liman's remake he spent most of his time involved in violent and bare-knuckle brawls, even giving himself a dangerous staph infection), all this is of no use, because he is not a character in the American star system forced to transform his professional career and to distance himself from the danger of typecasting at all costs. 

Gyllenhaal has been one of the most underrated performers of his generation for decades, and in Road House, he once again demonstrates that he possesses a rare talent in knowing how to empathize with lightness, self-irony, and great professionalism in psychologically and physically demanding roles; perhaps the only glimmer of appeal in a superficially enjoyable remake which however fails to take the decisive step towards cult movie status, as happened with its 1989 predecessor.

Was Patrick Swayze better?

Is it all Amazon Studios and MGM's fault? Not necessarily, also because Doug Liman's Road House, arriving on the streaming platform starting from Thursday 21 March, will attract a fair number of users, mainly interested in the body, muscles, and charisma of its protagonist on stage, but then finding yourself faced with a paradoxically empty and ordinary action thriller, to be forgotten minutes after seeing it for the first time. And for a pure entertainment product, on paper, there is nothing wrong with that.

It's a shame, however, that Road House, proudly a remake of an action film that all things considered set a precedent, does not achieve the objective it should have set itself: to make us forget the feature film with Patrick Swayze and give life to a new film that could sustain itself independently on its own legs and with a strong cinematic identity anchored to the contemporary trends of the current star system industry. Where also Jake Gyllenhaal is particularly wasted.


The remake of the 80s cult film The Road House Guy doesn't achieve the goal it should have set: to make us forget the feature film with Patrick Swayze and give life to a new film that could sustain itself independently. And Jake Gyllenhaal is particularly wasted here too.
Overall Score