Roadhouse – The Bullshido Review

Yesterday, a friend of mine asked me why I would bother watching an apparently soulless remake of a schlock 80’s action film the first day it was available on streaming and I answered honestly- I want to hear Connor McGregor say “I used to fuck guys like you in prison,” but pronounce it ‘fook’ and have Jake Gyllenhaal respond looking at the camera as if he got lost on his way to making a higher budget movie. As with my other expectations for the 2024 version of Roadhouse, I was only half right. 

I’m not going to tell you that 2024 Roadhouse is a good movie- it is not. Nor will I tell you it is a fun movie- it is, at times, but not often enough to call the whole movie fun. What I will say is that it’s an interesting enough experience that I’m still thinking about it the next day, which is more than I can say for other competent but ultimately pointless 80’s remakes. 

Filmmaking 101: How to Miss the Point

Looking at you, 2014 Robocop. No one else remembers you, but I sort of do. 

My biggest take away from the new Roadhouse is that large parts of the movie have all the elements of being good- some even great- that fall apart in execution. An example early on enough in the movie that I won’t consider it a spoiler is a sequence in which Gyllenhaal, playing Elwood Dalton- no, I don’t know why they decided to furnish him with a first name in the remake- is shown in the first few minutes of the film to be a tortured character. He is driving home in his car, established to be as worn and out of sorts as our protagonist, and stops at a level crossing as the signal is sounding. Dalton looks around, then slowly pulls onto the train tracks, silently awaiting his demise. As the train approaches, he decides he can’t go through with it and tries to drive away, but his questionable vehicle won’t start back up. Dalton gets the car going at the last possible moment, getting his trunk smashed by the train and providing the setting event for the movie.

This could have been a great scene. Reading the description, it has characterization, it has drama, it has a basic concept of setup and payoff. But the sound mixing and editing just fail the scene. There’s no ramping up of the train volume as it approaches. No quick cuts to a closeup to make you feel the tension. And when the train hits the back of the car the sound used feels like a minor fender bender and they basically don’t show the actual collision- my guess being that the VFX shot they planned to cut to for the actual impact didn’t look very good so they decided to try and edit around it.

Roadhouse 2024: “Ex-UFC fighter Dalton takes a job as a bouncer at a Florida Keys roadhouse, only to discover that this paradise is not all it seems”. No shit, it’s fcking FLORIDA. Surprised Dalton wasn’t fighting off adult measles too.

Roadhouse is filled with action and stunt sequences like this. All the writing and on-set production elements are in place for cool, impactful scenes. But the moments that rely on post production to deliver a David Croenenberg metal grinding explosion instead present the audience with a wet fart. There were clearly people who went above and beyond for the fucking Roadhouse remake that have every right to be angry at how the final product dropped the ball. 

“Wait a minute,” you might say. “The opening minutes of the Roadhouse remake has a dramatic suicide attempt? Wasn’t the original the movie where bouncers are somehow world famous and all the stunt men have speaking lines?”

Yes. And thank you for being so helpful in the segue to the next point. This movie has tonal whiplash so severe that getting rear ended by a train in the film’s opening is pretty appropriate. In 2024 Roadhouse, Dalton is infamous wherever he goes, not for being the world’s greatest bouncer, but because he was a fighter who left the business after, it is heavily implied, he killed his opponent during a world title bout.

Well that can’t be good for the sport.

Certainly that is a character background where it makes a lot more sense that people greet Dalton with hushed whispers. I’m far more likely to recognize an athlete who had a shocking accident occur live on Pay Per View than I am a man who is absolutely world class at getting people into a cab after last call. But, as soon as you set out to make your Roadhouse movie more grounded in reality, I feel you’ve already lost the thread. 

I will admit, deciding to remake Roadhouse as a serious character exploration is a bold move. And there are elements of this movie that show a clever amount of self-awareness, like the young girl who works at the bookshop pointing out that Dalton’s story of coming into town to clean up the rowdy saloon is just like every other western.

This is a lampshade. And so is that.

Gyllenhaal portrays Dalton as an actual sociopath who goes out of his way to be nice and polite because he dislikes the consequences of allowing himself to be as vicious and calculated as he is capable. Which could be a really interesting protagonist in another movie. 

But this is Roadhouse. And everyone else seems to know that it’s Roadhouse. The supporting cast are all inexplicably quirky weirdos  and the villains eat the scenery whole. You have Connor McGregor dancing into every scene with a big grin on his face while Gyllenhaal seems to be under the impression that he’s still making Nightcrawler. The whole thing is just weird. 

The biggest surprise of the film for me was that Connor McGregor, an athlete doing his first movie whose schtick I was never particularly fond of, was a delight. He has so many running gags in his relatively small supporting role that are genuinely funny that I don’t want to spoil any of them. Just know that, on three separate occasions, McGregor does a thing that seems like a weird one off and turns out to be a hilarious character trait as the movie progresses. He still delivers his lines like an athlete being stunt cast rather than an actual actor, but it works for what he’s doing.

Ok, this looks kinda cool. Not as cool as ripping a dude’s throat out with a kung fu grip and a feathered mullet, but still.

 The film’s primary selling point, as you’d imagine from a remake of what is effectively a dolled up 80’s karate movie, are the fight sequences. These are pretty cool and generally well choreographed. Most of them have a visual theme of being shown through one moving camera and go for long, uninterrupted shots that will play with perspective. They frequently suffer from the same problem I mentioned with the car wreck in which post-production elements shit the bed and take away from an otherwise good scene. But, when they are working, they feel like a lesser version of the church fight from Kingsman- which is a more glowing recommendation than it sounds. That scene was awesome and recapturing even some of that feel in an action movie is a positive. I don’t think anyone was expecting the Roadhouse remake to be their new favorite cinematic experience.

Unless that’s you, Mr. Gyllenhaal. In which case, my condolences, as my wife has recently informed me that Taylor Swift doesn’t like you that much, anymore. 

Peter Lampasona is a writer originally working a beat in combat sports. Peter has contributed to publications such as MMAMania, The Fight Nerd, and US Combat Sports; worked on production for the now defunct Spike TV shows MMA Uncensored Live and the Unrivaled documentary series; appeared in the New York Mixed Martial Arts documentary sporting an, in retrospect, ridiculous haircut. Peter is also a contributor/co-writer of Children of Gaia- having authored War and Horses and Carrying Iron and provided consultation for several Oneshi Press projects, including Children of Gaia: The Great Nations of Rendaraia, Tracy Queen, and PACK. At the time where all major publishers deemed them an unprofitable and failed product, Peter came up with the brilliant idea to break into the field of graphic novels. He currently lives in New York and totally thinks he’s better than you because of it.
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