MOVIES

Jake Gyllenhaal Action Remake Inspires Apathy

A disclaimer of sorts: I’ve never seen the original “Road House,” mostly being aware of its existence thanks to it being the favorite movie of Crow T. Robot from “Mystery Science Theatre 3000.” I considered whether I should see the critically derided but audience-approved action film before the remake for the purposes of comparison, but ultimately decided that as a remake, this new movie should be able to stand on its own and be judged accordingly on its own merits. It’s not like this is one of those reboots that’s secretly a stealth sequel a la “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.”

The strongest of this remake’s merits is, as mentioned before, Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance. His character, Elwood Dalton, gets introduced as the fighter nobody wants to fight, his mere presence causing opponents to forfeit. When Frankie (Jessica Williams) tries to hire him as a bouncer for her Road House bar, he rejects the offer, only taking the job after his car gets wrecked. When Dalton first has to remove some overly rowdy customers, he makes it very clear he doesn’t wish to fight them — but if they do, he’ll take them to the nearby hospital.

You don’t need the repeated flashback sequences hinting at the eventual backstory reveal to figure out that Dalton acts so eerily jovial and restrained because he’s holding back a capacity for brutality he’s regretfully unleashed in the past and will have to unleash again in the face of villains threatening the Road House. He’s not a deep character, but even being two-dimensional makes him more interesting than the cartoonish villains he faces — sniveling rich boy Brandt (Billy Magnussen), screaming chaotic muscle man Knox (Conor McGregor) — and the weakly defined supporting characters he’s defending. The romantic subplot between Dalton and the local doctor Ellie (Daniela Melchior) proves so utterly forgettable it barely even warrants a mention.

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