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A remake of ‘Road House’ with Gyllenhaal turns into a muscular, Florida romp


Conor McGregor (left) and Jake Gyllenhaal in a scene from “Road House” (Prime Video)

Elwood P. Dalton is a classy sort of bouncer. While five tough guys circle him outside a bar looking to bash his skull in, he has a question for them: “Before we start, do you have insurance?” And after savagely beating each up, he kindly drives them to the hospital.

Dalton — played by a muscular and languid Jake Gyllenhaal — is a former UFC fighter with a dark past in “Road House,” a reworking of the pulpy 1989 action film starring Patrick Swayze.

“You sure you thought this all the way through?” Dalton at one point asks an assailant who has the nerve to plunge a knife into his abdomen. The same question can be asked of the filmmakers: Is it really wise to retread this old flick? The answer is as shocking as a sucker punch: Yes, indeed.

Gyllenhaal is a sort of Spider-Man-meets-Jack Reacher-meets Jason Bourne, an oddball loner with ferocious fighting abilities who makes a living in illegal fights and lives in his car, haunted by what he did to a friend in the octagon. He douses booze on his open wounds and uses electrical tape instead of a bandage, yet he also oddly uses wheelie luggage. (You expected a big old black duffel, right?) What’s in the baggage? A death wish, of course.

He is lured to the Florida Keys by a roadhouse bar owner (the always brilliantly tart Jessica Williams), who needs an excellent bouncer to protect her from nightly violence. He’s offered $5,000 a week to stop thugs in sleeveless jean jackets from throwing bottles, flipping tables and breaking pool cues. (The Florida tourist board will love this movie).

“I’m hoping you’re different,” a bar employee says and he is. Dalton settles in the fictional Glass Key, dates a cutie, makes friends with the good folk and lives in what all damaged loners gravitate to, a houseboat. He soon teaches the other bouncers the tricks of the trade, Zen-like, and finds excellent reasons to take off his shirt.

“I’m just some guy,” he says. “You don’t want to know me.”

Like a night of heavy drinking, things gets a little bizarre toward the end of the movie as it starts straying far from the roadhouse. Speed boats go flying, explosions go bang and someone uses arson to send a message. A deadly crocodile that plays an outsized role is sadly abandoned.

“The Bourne Identity” director Doug Liman seems to be having fun, his camera lingering on the chiseled beefsteak and mixing in honky tonk songs by the deliciously named Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. & The Zydeco Twisters. The action scenes are dynamite, layering POV camera work with great, thundering, bottle smashing stunts. It knows it’s silly, but it’s still a good time.

That’s reason enough that Liman is upset the movie is avoiding cineplexes and going straight to streaming. But he could rectify that. He could hire, like, an unstable, but gracious, former fighter who lives in his car. For a few thousand, that guy can make things right. MARK KENNEDY, MDT/AP Entertainment Writer

“Road House,” an Amazon MGM Studios release streaming on Prime Video from March 21, is rated R for “nudity, violence, alcohol use and foul language.” Running time: 114 minutes.

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