Road House trailer, screengrab via YouTube,.

When you compete against yourself, you’re often going to lose. That’s the problem when Hollywood makes nostalgia plays with reboots, prequels, sequels, and requels. Nobody likes it when you mess with their childhood favorites. Better to remake projects that didn’t resonate with the public. Less blowback.

Your enjoyment of Prime Video’s Road House, a reimagining of the 1989 cult favorite, will likely hinge on your biases. You’ll be disappointed if you expect it to compete with a film from 35 years ago. However, for a new generation, this update works.

Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not like the original was an Oscar contender. (Nominated for five Razzies!). Road House (1989) is a beloved relic from a bygone era. This action film built a following because it starred 80s heartthrob Patrick Swayze and was frequently replayed on cable TV in the 90s. It was sleazy, campy, and gritty in a way that is virtually impossible to replicate. The new version wisely doesn’t try to be a carbon copy. The common thread? You shouldn’t take either interpretation seriously.

Like its predecessor, Road House 2.0 is absurd, escapist fun, featuring relationships that don’t make sense. The plot solely exists to get you from one fight scene to another. Who cares if the story is as solid as a dilapidated building? You just want to see Dalton kick butt. Replacing Swayze is Jake Gyllenhaal, who portrays a washed-up MMA fighter. We also have a change in locale, taking place in the Florida Keys instead of a small town in Missouri.

Road House succeeds largely due to Gyllenhaal, one of America’s most versatile actors. Gyllenhaal can easily morph into a muscle-bound badass or be a pencil-neck geek. Not many can seamlessly make this transition. Gyllenhaal’s Dalton becomes the bouncer with a heart of gold. One of the characters in the film describes him as Mister Rogers. That’s exactly the vibe director Doug Liman is going for. Dalton is the outsider who comes to rescue the townsfolk from evil.

Dalton delivers beatdowns with a wink and smile, charmingly warning henchmen before unleashing fury. He even points out that the local hospital is only 25 miles away so they can get proper treatment for their broken bones and wounds. What a sweetheart. Dalton doesn’t want to kill these killers. This is cartoonish. But because people like cartoons, this line of logic is fine. However, there are some dramatic moments, such as when bossman villain Ben Brandt (Billy Magnussen looking astonishingly like Joe Burrow) confronts Dalton with a YouTube video from his past. The regret in Gyllenhaal’s face shows terrific acting.

First question: How well does Gyllenhaal pull off the part of a former UFC champion? The match scenes, shown in flashbacks, seem believable. And his fights are smartly choreographed with some elements of MMA combined with good ol’ bar-room brawling. There’s a delicate balance to appease the old-school fans and new viewers. 

Second question: How does Conor McGregor fare in his acting debut? Passable. The main criticism is that his comic timing needs work. McGregor, playing the role of Brandt’s top enforcer, is in familiar territory and doesn’t stray too far from the role he knows best. Those involved in combat sports are used to portraying over-the-top antagonists. That’s why boxers, fighters, and wrestlers are often aspiring actors.

Road House‘s climax is exactly what you expect. Ridiculous and satisfying. The reboot saves the best for last with a hilarious mid-credits scene that reminds you of why you tuned in in the first place.

To enjoy some mindless entertainment. 

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.