‘Road House’ Review — Jake Gyllenhaal Can’t Punch His Way Through This Mess

Estimated read time 5 min read

The Big Picture

  • Jake Gyllenhaal looks like an absolute beast, but his role as disgraced professional fighter Elwood Dalton is rather one-dimensional.
  • The reliance on digital effects is an odd one because too many of them look cheap in motion.
  • Doug Liman’s remake pales in comparison to the beloved 80s original.

Doug Liman’s Road House remake earns a disappointing and unfortunate “woof.” That’s not even in comparison to Rowdy Herrington’s good-time brawler starring the latePatrick Swayze — it’s underwhelming by baseline cinematic standards. Everything feels … off. The shoddy digital effects are unappealing, all of the action tracking feels weirdly calibrated (think motion smoothing meets animation), and the performances are a mixed bag. Writers Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry try their best to honor the ass-whoopin’ comfort food that is 1989’s Road House, but their story serves a watered-down brew that’s flatter than an opened bottle of Bud Light left on some frat dude’s nightstand for a week.

What Is ‘Road House’ About?

Jake Gyllenhaal is trying as ex-UFC fighter Elwood Dalton and clearly put in the gym time to achieve an exceptionally shredded physique. Elwood fights dudes built like Post Malone for cash, until Frankie (Jessica Williams) offers him $20K to bounce her self-proclaimed battleground of a roadhouse bar — called the “Road House.” Elwood hops a Greyhound to Florida, ends up in the Keys, and immediately starts dealing with the beach bum riffraff who keep interrupting musicians behind Frankie’s chicken wire barrier. Unfortunately, shady businessman Ben Brandt (Billy Magnussen) wants the Road House property for himself and keeps sending his grunts to trash Frankie’s watering hole until she gives up the joint.

From the jump, Liman sets an odd tone in the way he shoots Post Malone beating the snot out of a bulky octagon opponent. Malone feels like a video game character in the way his moves are synthetically fluid, which is an indication of the wonky fight cinematography to follow. It presents as unreal, the same as the unbalanced ADR that lends credence to claims that it was accomplished using artificial intelligence. You might be wondering, “How could a movie like Road House — that’s just about fighters trading blows — feel computer generated?” That’s a great question! But when your animated water, animated wall-hanging fixtures, and animated aquatic-based scenery pieces look like they do in Road House, it’s relevant.

Jake Gyllenhaal Plays It Straight in ‘Road House’

Conor McGregor and Jake Gyllenhaal, facing each other, in the Road House remake Image via Amazon MGM Studios

Gyllenhaal’s guilt-ridden take on Elwood Dalton is played as straight as can be, spending most of the film warning moronic surfer thugs in sleeveless tanks not to make him angry. As immaculately ripped as his abs on abs look, he’s working with material that’s blandly rudimentary even when trying to be a sarcastic violent scamp or the nicest pulverizer in the Keys. Liman chooses to focus on mysteries outside Road House (the bar), trying to ground a backstory in criminal insidiousness that treats Dalton like a nonchalant investigator, but the problem is, everything outside the tacky Road House walls feels muted and procedural. Daniela Melchior attempts to stir up some romantic intrigue as Dalton’s treating medic Ellie, but even that feels secondary as Gyllenhaal’s smarmy yet unfazed demeanor does neither performer any favors.

Liman takes things too seriously, except for the literal menace to societyConor McGregor, whose role as a maniac mercenary (introduced buck naked) is a blend of Popeye’s saunter, a silverback gorilla’s stiffness, and the terrifying Honeycomb cereal mascot. His schtick gets old embarrassingly quickly and his fights against Gyllenhaal use this awful first-person camera view which lets McGregor punch the lens like a rejected Neveldine and Taylor cinematography stunt. I’m not convinced Liman and his writers understand why audiences enjoyed the first Road House, because this far less enjoyable action flick is light on everything we crave about the original … including throat rips.

‘Road House’ Is the Worst Thing a Remake Like This Could Be: Boring

Jake Gyllenhaal as Elwood Dalton, sitting at a table, in Road House Image via Amazon MGM Studios

A Road House movie shouldn’t be boring, especially this boring. A Road House movie shouldn’t have to enhance its fight choreography in post-production, nor should it be such a tonal mishmash. I guess Liman didn’t get the memo? His Road House remake is an uninspired chore that never properly unleashes Gyllenhaal or nails even the most basic functions of bar fight nostalgia porn. There are brief highlights like Arturo Castro’s goofily honest bad guy or Gyllenhaal’s line reading of “Who taught you shapes?” but such pleasures quickly vanish. It’s probably not a good sign when your movie’s third-tier henchman is a shining star, but then again, the entire film has the personality of a nameless goon whose sole purpose is to eat a haymaker for breakfast.


Road House (2024)


Road House goes down swinging but doesn’t land that many punches.


  • Daniela Melchior, Arturo Castro, and the supporting cast are innocent.
  • The music sometimes matches the rhythm of fight choreography.


  • The film is far too serious for its own good.
  • It is also weirdly unserious in disjointed bursts.
  • The digital effects are a wash.
  • The film never quite decides what tone to use and keep consistent.

Road House had its World Premiere at the 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival. It will be available to stream on Prime Video in the U.S. starting March 21.