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Why Road House (2024) Is Darker and Better Than the Original

Why Road House (2024) Is Darker and Better Than the Original


  • Gyllenhaal’s Dalton is a more tragic hero than Swayze’s, haunted by his past as an MMA fighter turned bouncer.
  • The 2024 Road House remake takes place in Glass Key, Florida, adding mystery and a corrupted paradise setting.
  • McGregor’s Knox is a menacing enforcer, setting up an epic battle with Gyllenhaal’s Dalton in the revamped film.

When the first Road House film was released in 1989, audiences and critics expected it to be a conventional action film with Patrick Swayze as a professional bouncer who attempts to free a small-town Missouri roadside bar from the clutches of a sadistic tyrant. However, while the actioner is packed with brutal violence from beginning to end, it also elicits as much laughter as any successful comedy film of its era and far beyond. With its B-movie spirit, outrageous dialogue, and various idiotic strokes of genius, Road House has become a definitive so-bad-it’s-good cult classic.

Instead of trying to recreate the unabashed absurdity and trashiness of the original film, the 2024 update of Road House remake feels and looks, under the direction of action specialist Doug Liman, more like a reinvention than a remake. While the new Road House contains a requisite amount of exaggeration and sheer silliness, the remake transcends the original through a darker perspective, a fearsome villain, and a muscular star performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Dalton Is More Believable and Interesting

The amazing physical screen transformation that Jake Gyllenhaal has undergone over the past decade is on full display in Road House, in which Gyllenhaal plays Elwood Dalton, a former MMA fighter who becomes a bar bouncer after being driven to the brink of suicide by a horrible incident from his past. Like Patrick Swayze’s Dalton, Gyllenhaal’s Dalton is haunted by having previously killed a man with his bare hands.

However, while Swayze’s Dalton is revealed to have killed a man in self-defense by ripping out the man’s throat, Gyllenhaal’s Dalton, a former UFC fighter, killed a man by beating him to death amid an MMA fight inside a UFC cage. Moreover, while Swayze’s Dalton is able to internalize this tragic incident from his past, the entire world has seemingly watched Gyllenhaal’s Dalton kill an opponent on YouTube. While Swayze’s Dalton attempts to outrun his past by leaving a bouncer job in New York for a job in remote Jasper, Missouri, Gyllenhaal’s Dalton has nowhere to hide.

Throughout the remake, Dalton, who fought in underground MMA matches before becoming a bouncer, is continually reminded of this incident, especially by Dalton’s enemies, who remind Dalton of his past as a form of psychological torture. By making Dalton’s past a focal point in the remake, Dalton becomes a tragic hero. Instead of just protecting a bar, Dalton must also learn to forgive himself.

The Road House Remake Has a More Compelling Setting

Carter has a bloody face in Road House
Amazon MGM Studios

While the original Road House film is set in and around the Double Deuce bar in the tiny town of Jasper, Missouri, the remake moves the action to picturesque Glass Key, Florida, a fictional town in the Florida Keys, where Jake Gyllenhaal’s Dalton is hired to work as a bouncer at the Road House bar. However, while the exotic scenery in the remake makes the film good to look at, the idyllic setting also serves to visually contextualize how this image of paradise has been corrupted by criminality.

Everyone in Glass Key, including the town’s compromised Sheriff, cowers in fear under the rule of a vicious gangster who wants to take control of the Road House bar for his own wicked purposes. Indeed, while the primary villain in the original film, crime lord Brad Wesley, has no tangible motivation for wanting to take control of the Double Deuce bar other than as a demonstration of his power, the remake’s primary villain, local crime boss and real estate developer Ben Brandt, has a hidden motivation, which Dalton must uncover in the film.



Road House Review: This Pain Don’t Hurt

Jake Gyllenhaal delivers in a surprisingly good remake that pays homage to the original without getting mired in nostalgia.

By placing Dalton in the role of detective, the remake adds an element of mystery, which further distinguishes the remake from the essentially mindless original film. The beautiful visuals in the Road House remake also serve to highlight Dalton’s evolving psychological state, in which Dalton, prior to making his way to Glass Key, was prepared to kill himself by allowing himself to be hit by an oncoming train. Glass Key mirrors Dalton’s redemptive journey, in which Dalton discovers that Glass Key and its residents are worth fighting for and living for.

Conor McGregor’s Knox is a Great Villain

Conor McGregor in Road House yelling and smashing a fence with a pole.
Prime Video

The Road House remake most improves upon the original film with the appearance of legendary UFC champion Conor McGregor as Knox, a maniacal enforcer who is enlisted by the film’s true villain, Ben Brandt, to permanently close the Road House bar and allow Brandt to take control of the property. While Patrick Swayze’s Dalton plows through a stream of interchangeable, nondescript goons like they’re dominoes in the original film, McGregor’s Knox is more than a match for Jake Gyllenhaal’s Dalton, whose own MMA background and tragic history heralds an epic battle between Dalton and Knox.


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McGregor’s MMA pedigree and notoriously volatile personality make the Knox character inherently credible, specifically in terms of Knox’s and McGregor’s shared sense of unpredictability, which makes Knox uniquely dangerous. Knox contains so much of McGregor’s own trademark flamboyance and maniacal glee that it’s sometimes hard to separate the two.

While McGregor clearly has a lot of room for growth as an actor, Road House reveals that McGregor possesses both a genuinely menacing screen presence and an uncanny knack for making an unforgettable entrance and reappearance. Moreover, McGregor’s memorable performance generates a strong sense of anticipation regarding the possibility of seeing Knox again, either in a Road House sequel or a standalone Knox film. Stream on Prime Video.

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