In the entirety of American cinema history, there is one perfect film: Road House (1989). It is a masterpiece, untouchable and pristine, and no one should ever remake it. So of course, someone is trying to remake it. We’ve been threatened with remakes before, including one starring Ronda Rousey, but they’ve always quietly vanished into the ether, leaving Road House undisturbed. But now, no longer. A new remake looms, this one with considerable star power attached. No less a personage than Jake Gyllenhaal is in talks to star in Road House Redux: The Dumbest Idea Anyone Has Ever Had in Hollywood, and That’s Saying Something Based on the Sheer Number of Movies Featuring Talking Horses.
Doug Liman is also in talks to direct, and I can just see how this is being pitched at MGM. Liman, with his kinetic, nervy action, and Jake G, with his tense, wiry performances. I get it, I do. It’s just all wrong for Road House, which is basically a Western but built around Patrick Swayze’s laid-back Zen vibes sublimating the overt machismo found everywhere else in the film. (Road House Is Good, Actually: An Essay in Ten Parts.) There are big fight scenes in Road House, including that bonkers third-act murder-spree that seems to have come straight from the lines of cocaine on a studio exec’s desk, but the fights in Road House are all about the juxtaposition of Swayze’s comparatively slight physique against the laughably huge henchman, his balletic, controlled movements against their brute force. It’s all a rejection of the adrenaline-fueled action of the 1980s, and the one time Dalton (Swayze) loses control and does something unspeakably violent, it’s framed as a personal failing.
It’s also a movie where someone says, “I used to f-ck guys like you in prison,” and I DARE a contemporary movie to include that line of dialogue. I DARE YOU.
Putting Road House in the hands of Doug Liman and Jake Gyllenhaal is all wrong. It’s misunderstanding what made Road House great in the first place, and you can never replicate the unique appeal of Patrick Swayze, which was so specific to that era, when he was a direct counterpoint to the overblown masculinity of other action stars. Today’s action heroes are built in the Swayze line, though, so there’s nothing for them to contrast against. A contemporary Dalton wouldn’t be an odd duck in the cinematic landscape, as intended—there’s a reason everyone comments on how unexpected they find Dalton. Just don’t remake Road House. You can’t recapture that lightning in a bottle. Did we learn NOTHING from the Point Break remake?
Attached - Jake Gyllenhaal at the LACMA Art+Film Gala 2021 last week.