Advertisement

‘Road House’ Returned All the Testosterone to My Body

road house official trailer
‘Road House’ Returned Testosterone to My BodyAmazon Prime

I've always wondered what taking steroids would feel like. I've taken oral steroids (for chronic eczema, narc) and they felt pretty nice. Like a cup of coffee brewed with a lock of Arnold Schwarzenegger's hair. What's holding me back from leveling up? Well, I'd have to inject real 'roids via needle to the tushie, which would hurt. Also, can dudes under 6'0" responsibly take steroids? I'd look like some kind of reject meatball from the Carbone menu, right? Does Carbone even have meatballs?

OK. All I'm trying to tell you is that Road House—the remake of Patrick Swayze's 1989 cable-rerun classic—is not only extremely good, but it was so honest-to-god thrilling that it gave me the steroid thoughts again.

The Doug Liman-directed Road House debuts on Prime Video today. If you're unfamiliar with the original and you watch it now, it's very much a they-don't-make-movies-like-this-anymore movie. Swayze plays a bouncer named James Duncan, who is notorious for his ability to clean any dive bar of scumbags, wanderers, and brawlers, no matter how formidable. A honkey-tonk bar, called the Double Deuce, pays him a nice wad of cash to make it a knife-free joint. '80s action movie antics ensue. (Karate, mansion-dwelling villain, dialogue via one-liners.)

The 2024 remix stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Duncan, a former UFC fighter, swapping Missouri for Hemingway country: The Florida Keys. The general outline remains intact: A tired-of-this shit bar owner (now played by Jessica Williams) extends a job offer to Duncan, so he rides into town. There, he buddies up with the owner of a local business, romances a doctor (Daniela Melchior), and draws the ire of some local goons (Conor McGregor, Billy Magnussen, and Arturo Castro, among others.) The film is one massive brawl; roughly 70-80 percent of the movie features someone in extreme bodily pain.

road house
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Duncan is bug-eyed, shifty, unnervingly charismatic, tatted up, and armed with zingers.Amazon Prime

Now, I was ready for this general sequence of events. I was not ready for everything else. Road House stuffed so much macho batshittery in its runtime that it not only relapsed the steroid thoughts, but captivated me (I'm... ashamed to admit this?) in only a way Killers of the Flower Moon managed to in the past year.

How? I'll tell you. First of all, the movie opens with Post Malone in a cage match, pulverizing someone who definitely does not drink as much Bud Light as Post Malone, to the tune of a Post Malone song. Also, Mr. All Too Jacked's tragic backstory is that he was a UFC fighter who 'roided out a little too hard in public. (But he did magically stave off cauliflower ear, which might explain why he never fell into a deep depression.) Plus, Road House's 114 minutes feature, in no particular order: so many glimpses of Conor McGregor's bare ass that I lost count, a so-on-the-nose-I-snorted Florida gator moment, and a villain who firmly passes as Joe Burrow's doppelgänger. (I will henceforth refer to this character as Joe Burrow's Id.)

One more: It's the kind of film that has a character named Mr. Big Dick. Our introduction to Mr. Big Dick:

"People who know me, they call me Duncan."

"Oh, well, the people who know me, they call me Mr. Big Dick."

You think this line is a fit of '80s cheese—his name is Jack, surely—but then, people who know Mr. Big Dick start casually referring to Mr. Big Dick as Mr. Big Dick.

Mr. Big Dick!

I fucking loved it.

I could talk about Liman's Edge of Tomorrow-quality setpieces, or how much Joe Burrow's Id improves upon the original's forgettable antagonists, or the fact that McGregor is a genuinely compelling screen presence. (Swap him for Dakota Johnson in Madame Web and it's a hit. Imagine!) Really, I left Road House thinking, This is how you do a remake. Road House never seeks to replicate the 1989 film, nor does it chase the a-ha! line, moment, or reenactment that'll give the die-hards of the original a boner. Admirably, no one ever tells Jake Paul-Gyllenhaal "I thought you'd be bigger," because it wouldn't make any damn sense. He's five times the size of Swayze! When Road House waxes nostalgic, it feels like you took a welcome, yet not terribly impactful, backroad to familiar territory.

a man with a beard
Conor McGregor was made for the screen. Prime Video

That said, Road House truly succeeds because of Gyllenlegday's deliciously manic performance. If we learned one thing from Solo—as much as I love Alden Ehrenreich!—it's that it's damn near impossible to successfully channel an iconic actor's defining role. (Not that Patrick Swayze's throat-pulling Duncan is his greatest role, but still.) Gyllenhaal clearly said, "I'm not doing Patrick Swayze! I'm doing Jake Gyllenhaal!" His take on Duncan is bug-eyed, shifty, unnervingly charismatic, tatted up, and armed with zingers. (I'm talking about the Reddit-troll variety of quips. Think: Aaron Rodgers during a Pat McAfee Show appearance.)

Turns out, 35 years later, Road House is exactly what its predecessor is: a they-don't-make-movies-like-this-anymore movie. When's the last time you saw a hard-R blockbuster that kept your attention for more than 15 minutes? Or such a big, bold, goofy, non-Oscars-baiting performance from an A-lister? It's a gem in a field of superhero gloop. Considering Road House didn't even see a theatrical release, I encourage you to watch the shit out of it, so we at least can watch Road House 2 someday, and maybe even more films like it.

And for the record? I was kidding about all that steroid stuff. But if you see me walking around Brooklyn with a gator tattoo on my left bicep, well... that's real.

You Might Also Like