Entertainment and Arts

‘Road House’ Reboot: Does Jake Gyllenhaal Pack the Same Punch?

By: Russ Matthews

The fascination with 1980s cinema continues with the reimagining of the Patrick Swayze cult-classic Road House.

With Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman guiding the punches and Jake Gyllenhaal (Southpaw) giving and taking the hits along with champion UFC fighter Conor McGregor, this promises to be action-packed. Yet, can this promising team capture the original’s magic and give audiences the powerful blows they desire from this story set in the Florida Keys?

Disgraced UFC fighter Elwood Dalton (Gyllenhaal) has been making his living in the underground fight circuit until one night, he is approached by roadhouse owner Frankie (Jessica Williams). She needs help with local bikies who come into her establishment each night and hassle her staff and customers. Her goal is to get the legendary fighter to come and be the head bouncer of the club and get the business back on its feet. Despite his initial hesitation, Dalton decides to take the job and quickly resolves the situation with the gang. Yet, this group of muscle heads were merely doing the bidding of local criminal boss, Ben Brandt (Billy Magnussen), who has ulterior motives for the Road House. Things continue to escalate between these two men, leading Dalton to consider if he should leave the Keys or stay to fight for his own form of justice.

One of the biggest challenges for directors who attempt to reintroduce stories from past decades is capturing what made the original great and interpreting it for a new generation. What may have been acceptable dialogue and ethics in the past may have different messaging with modern viewers. Doug Liman has managed to take the heart of the Patrick Swayze lead film and bring it into this modern era with a bombastic effect. He manages to lean into the ludicrous elements of the concept while applying the contemporary spin of the UFC community and showing that the bar room continues to contain a timelessness that harkens back to the Westerns of old. These aspects may not make for award-winning cinema. Still, you cannot say these violent extremes don’t entertain on a visceral level.

Jake Gyllenhaal manages to capture the convincing combination of fighter and philosopher, making his character mysterious and appealing. He may not have the mane of hair of his predecessor. Still, he is an actor who is as comfortable in the boxing ring as he handles the most challenging screenplays. The rest of the cast fulfils their roles and helps to deliver an over-the-top action drama that allows Conor McGregor to be who he is and look to have too much fun in the process. While Billy Magnussen, Daniela Melchior, and Arturo Castro look as if they are just glad to come along on the ride through the beautiful Florida Keys.

Like a fighter entering the ring ready to fight, Road House knows exactly what it is and why it even exists. To give the audience what they want: rippling muscles, clever banter, ridiculous villains, alligators, and more punches than a UFC fan could dream of in one film.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Conor McGregor in Road House
Above: Jake Gyllenhaal and real-life UFC fighter Conor McGregor

REEL DIALOGUE: Can we be redeemed from our past?

Redemption: an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed. Deliverance from sin; salvation.

The idea of redemption is a driving force in Road House. It becomes apparent that Dalton’s motivation is to find atonement for his past wrongs, which have made him a pariah within the fighting community.

His need for redemption points to one of life’s basic needs. As we travel through life, most of us seek redemption for various things we have done, trying to find a means of rectifying the wrongs we have done to people, society, or God. This concept can be found at the heart of the Bible’s message. Jesus’ life and death provide a particular type of redemption readily available to anyone willing to accept it.

This brings about two questions: Are you seeking redemption, and have you considered Jesus the answer?

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, Ephesians 1:7

If you would like to discuss the topics from Road House, reach out to us at Third Space. We would love to chat with you about this and more.

Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

All images: Movie stills

About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.

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