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Film Review: ROAD HOUSE (2024): Jake Gyllenhaal Takes Charge in a Crackling Action Picture That Starts Strong but then Goes Buck Wild

Jake Gyllenhaal Road House

Road House Review

Road House (2024) Film Review, a movie directed by Doug Liman, written by Anthony Bagarozzi, Chuck Mondry and R. Lance Hill and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Daniela Melchior, Conor McGregor, Billy Magnussen, Jessica Williams, B.K. Cannon, Joaquim de Almeida, Post Malone, Lukas Gage, Dominique Columbus, Arturo Castro, JD Pardo, Beau Knapp, Hannah Love Lanier, Kevin Carroll, Bob Menery, Darren Barnet and Travis Van Winkle.

Doug Liman’s Road House is a very unique creation by director Liman that, for the most part, successfully reworks material from the 1989 Patrick Swayze starrer of the same name. Jake Gyllenhaal was born to play this lead role he takes on here and, as a former UFC champ turned bouncer, the actor looks buff and acts tough. He’s a relatable movie hero for the ages and as a young local book store co-owner named Charlie (Hannah Love Lanier) points out, Gyllenhaal’s character Dalton’s story is straight out of a work of fiction, literary or otherwise. Set in the Florida Keys, this movie doesn’t play games and delivers the goods with one crackling action scene after another. It’s only when the movie pulls out all the stops towards the end, that it feels a bit like overkill.

As the film opens, Dalton is hustling and collecting money from unsuspecting people who gamble on fights. Dalton goes up against a heavy opponent who crumbles in Dalton’s presence. Dalton is noticed by Frankie (Jessica Williams) who makes him an offer he probably cannot refuse–20 grand in a month’s time to go work for her. Dalton is on the edge and a bit unstable but he reluctantly takes on a job as a bouncer in the Keys at a place known as the Road House; hence the movie’s title. The primary owner of the Road House hilariously calls the boat where Dalton ends up sleeping simply, “The Boat.”

Dalton kicks ass right from the beginning. A group of rowdy guys start breaking pool sticks and acting out of line so Dalton puts them in their place, sending them to the hospital where the doctor, Ellie (Daniela Melchior) sarcastically thanks him for the extra patients while there are other people who need medical attention who will have to wait while Ellie tends to the goons Dalton sends her way. Of course, Ellie and Dalton form a connection and Ellie will serve some major plot functions here as the film progresses.

Lanier’s Charlie and her dad (Kevin Carroll) own the local book store and, early on, Charlie gives Dalton a free copy of a book as a kind gesture. Charlie’s father works a day job while she tends to the bookstore because selling books doesn’t make much money these days. The book store will not meet a nice fate as the film progresses so take note fellow bookworms.

There is a slew of crooked characters who will make it miserable for Dalton and his newfound friends. Billy Magnussen gets the most memorable role here as Ben Brandt. Magnussen has a good time playing this wicked character and is only upstaged by a tattooed heavy straight out of prison named Knox (played by Conor McGregor) who sometimes steals the show as he goes buck wild, kicks butt and takes down whoever he can along the way. There are a number of plot twists here that keep the movie on its toes but the film ultimately goes too far with the action scenes as they become more and more brutal and more and more ridiculous to watch. By the time the credits roll, the movie has turned into more of an inane free-for-all than an action picture that plays by the rules.

Road House tries hard, though. Sometimes, too hard for its own good. There is some nice chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Melchior but that keeps getting pushed to the side in favor of action sequences and, for this particular movie, rightfully so. Lanier is a bright up-and-comer as Charlie while, on the other side of the coin, screen veteran Joaquim de Almeida is his usual self in another strong authoritative role for the distinguished actor.

But, this is still Jake Gyllenhaal’s movie all the way through whether Conor McGregor gets his moments to shine or not. Gyllenhaal is a movie star and this character, who starts out with a “what me, worry?” attitude, becomes more and more interesting as the film progresses. He has a sense of humor and his heroics will win over any action film audience who knows what they’re getting into with this wild movie.

Doug Liman is a director whose films tend to have a breakneck pace to them. Though Road House has a few quiet moments, they are few and far between. One such moment comes when a local worker named Laura (B.K. Cannon) just pops up on Dalton’s boat when he’s getting up in the morning. Laura says she likes what he’s done with the place and poor Dalton soon realizes that this town’s characters are really, really, for lack of a better word, unique, much like the movie itself.

If Road House doesn’t live up to the expectations set by the original 1989 movie, it does offer a lot of expertly crafted action scenes for Liman fans and Gyllenhaal fans. I could have seen the new Road House being a modest hit on the big screen but it’s going to be a huge hit streaming on Prime where admirers of the film can re-watch their favorite scenes again just to be in awe of how intense they truly are. It’s interesting how many scenes here demand a re-watch because they seem too crazy for their own good. Liman has outdone himself here, for better or worse.

Rating: 7/10

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