As well as some excellent original content – The Boys being the 'prime' example, Amazon Prime Video is a great source of classic movies. Now it's taking the obvious next step and producing a remake of a classic movie: Road House.
According to several sources, this is actually happening, although I will believe it when I see it. 'Confirmed' cast include UFC champion Conor McGregor, who certainly knows a thing or two about acting woodenly and punching people, with Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead and such luminaries as [copies and pastes details] 'Billy Magnussen, Daniela Melchior, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Lukas Gage, Hannah Love Lanier, Travis Van Winkle, B.K. Cannon, Arturo Castro, Dominique Columbus, Beau Knapp and Bob Menery.' I have to admit I have no idea who any of those people are. I thought Travis Van Winkle might be related to Vanilla Ice – whose real name is Robert Van Winkle – but seemingly not.
So, long story short, I have some questions about the Amazon Prime Road House remake, and there are more of them than just 'why would anyone in their right mind remake Road House?', 'will this actually happen?' and 'how much will it suck?' But firstly, let's discuss the beloved original.
Road House (1989) starred Patrick Swayze and Sam Elliott, and is one of the silliest, most lovable and yet incredibly violent and sexy action movies ever made. It has such a unique vibe – the director was called 'Rowdy Herrington' which possibly tells you all that you need to know. So a remake seems like a tall order. However the director and star team of Doug Liman (Bourne Identity) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Spider-Man: Far From Home) is definitely an interesting one. Perhaps more significantly, original producer Joel Silver returns, but he is now 70 and may not be quite so hands-on as he once was.
Road House is a hard movie to explain. 'Violent and macho' sums it up pretty well, but the original also had a thick vein of humour running through it. You can quibble over whether it was being deliberately funny, as I and several people attached to the film would claim, or whether it was accidentally humorous due to it being a stupid movie made by dum-dums. There is a fine line between clever and stupid, after all.
Road House clearly baffled and rattled stuck-up 1980s critics, as it has a lacklustre 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But what did those condescending Poindexters know? Audiences give it 66% which is better but it still suggests a lot of those people don't quite 'get' Road House. So to make the scoring mathematically perfect, I give it 99%. For me, the original Road House is the best terrible movie ever made, and the perfect late-night, weekend, slightly boozed-up entertainment.
Speaking of which, here are the best R-rated movies on Disney Plus.
When it comes to the remake, I have some questions. You can scroll down to see why I think the original is so good, and why Liman and Gyllenhaal have their work cut out if they want to make a film that won't alienate all the fans of the original, while also not completely bemusing newcomers to the legend that is Road House. Pain don't hurt… but this might.
Can Jake Gyllenhaal kick ass? Actually, I know the answer to this. He'll be best known to most movie goers as Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home, in which he kicked a certain amount of ass, but back in 2015 he was very convincing as a sensitive boxer in Southpaw. Back in 2012 he had off-the-scale bromantic bro chemistry with Michael Peña in the cop movie End of Watch. So while most Gyllenhaal movies have not involved him being very manly, but in a sensitive way, and kicking lots of ass, he has proved he can do it.
Can he replicate the other-worldly charm or Bruce Lee-like physique of The Swayze? That's slightly more questionable, but Gyllenhaal's a good actor and I am sure he'll be putting the gym work in as we speak.
Who can replace Sam Elliott as Wade Garrett? The cowboy boots of Sam Elliott may be even harder to fill. His high-wattage charisma, relaxed manner and way with a one-liner made him the perfect older foil to Swayze in the original Road House. He also kicked a lot of ass. My top tip here is Bob Odenkirk. Although better known as Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul, he was widely acclaimed for his work in last year's extremely violent hit, Nobody. This saw him playing, basically, an ass-kickin' dad, which is what the Wade Garrett role is, in a nutshell. He did also quite recently have a heart attack, but hopefully he's over that now.
Who could ever be an updated version of arch-villain Brad Wesley? One of the many freaked-out things about the original Road House is that Brad Wesley – a gimlet-eyed embodiment of pure small-town evil – was played by Ben Gazzara. Gazzara is probably best known for being in this, but not far behind, he was known for playing Jackie Treehorn in the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski, and for appearing in a number of John Cassavetes' films, including The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. He later turned up in Lars Von Trier's typically stomach-turning Dogville, so we're talking here about a guy who was in a lot of serious, prestige films. His performance as Wesley in Road House is just lip-smackingly malevolent, but he also had to deliver some quite stupid lines and at least try to keep a straight face during some absolute onscreen nonsense. And he didn't seem to mind that at all.
I am not sure anyone could fill Gazzara's shoes. 20 years ago, Michael Caine would have been the obvious choice – he was in Steven Seagal's On Dangerous Ground and Death Wish Pensioner movie Harry Brown, after all. However, his career got significantly less hacky in later life and now he's too old. Charles Dance isn't much younger but he might be a good option. I could imagine him delivering the immortal line, "You're a bleeder. You bleed too much. You are a messy bleeder," after cold-cocking an out-of-favour henchman in the face.
And what about Wesley's vicious chief henchman, Jimmy? I'm kidding – obviously this will be Conor McGregor. He's got the build, the brutality, the aversion to shirts, and probably the curious 'acting' style required.
Is Doug Liman any kind of Rowdy Herrington? Rowdy's highly eccentric direction of Road House is a big part what makes it the legend that it is. Was he a good director? By many metrics, probably not. Was he exactly the right director for that particular movie? Hell yeah. Much of the film's rampaging, make-it-up-as-you-go-along tone probably came from legendary producer Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, The Matrix, etcetera etcetera ad infinitum), but Rowdy helmed it like a boss.
Doug Liman did the first Bourne film and also Edge of Tomorrow, in which Tom Cruise gets killed repeatedly and very satisfyingly. So there's no doubt he knows his way around filming action. However, it is hard to picture him turning in a film as uninhibited, ass-kicking and self-knowingly funny as the original Road House.
Has Liman ever filmed a car driving up a ramp and flying through the air whilst being peppered with shotgun fire, causing it to catch fire and explode? I very much doubt it. He'll need to raise his game if Road House the Remake is to be as big a triumph as Rowdy Herrington's original. And here's why.
Why is Road House (the original) so good?
Yes, what is that makes the original Road House so good? Firstly it is a dumb, kick-ass action movie. Secondly, it clearly knows it is a dumb, kick-ass action movie. If you actually think about its plot for even a minute, it falls apart. But the action and humour are so non-stop, it would seem churlish to point out certain plot holes and implausible moments.
In summary, a small American town is entirely run by a corrupt local businessman named Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara) – there are no cops, as far as we can see. On the edge of town is a violent bar whose owner, in desperation, brings in a legendary bouncer called Dalton, played by Patrick Swayze. Dalton is unbeatable in a fight, unflappable under pressure and it is said he once killed a man… by ripping his throat out. Dalton cleans up the bar in about 3 weeks but this only brings him into conflict with the pointlessly evil Wesley. Needless to say, many one-liners and much ass-kicking duly ensue.
This is the kind of film everyone says 'they don't make them like that anymore', and that may be because someone in Hollywood sent around a memo after Road House saying, 'for god's sake, don't make them like that anymore.' The film entirely hinges on the charisma of Patrick Swayze and, to an extent Sam Elliott, who plays Wade Garrett who is – guess what? – another, older but equally legendary bouncer. Dalton calls him in as backup and the brotastic duderama that results is really quite something.
The tone of the film is firmly tongue in cheek. When Dalton and Garrett make their respective entrances, someone in the background literally says, 'Who IS that guy?' The dialogue is littered with gems such as 'Pain don't hurt' and 'I see you found my trophy room, Dalton. The only thing that's missing… is your ass!' The super-evil Wesley has a trophy room, of course. We also learn that Dalton, as well as having a PhD in ass-kicking, studied philosophy at NYU. He characterises this as 'Man's search for faith… that sort of shit.'
Another very significant thing about Road House is that it makes full and erotic use of Patrick Swayze. I don't think I've seen any Hollywood film where the camera lingers on its male star more than this – not even the prime-time works of Tom Cruise or Richard Gere. We frequently see Dalton shirtless, oiled up, and doing slow-motion tai-chi by the river. Swayze moves with the coiled grace of a panther and has a strange, almost feminine charm. This seemed like a natural fit for Dirty Dancing, but it is a bit incongruous in a movie where he spends about 50% of his time kicking people in the knee – a move he guarantees will bring down any opponent – head-butting them in the face, or ripping out their throats with his bare hands. But then that's why Road House is one of the best movies of all time.
Swayze's key one-on-one scenes are both highly, erm sensual. And by that I mean both his vigorously sexy scene with the local doctor, who he naturally romances, although he continues to refer to her as 'doc', and also the violent one where he battles Wesley's main henchman, again stripped to the waist. The camera really homes in on Swayze's physique and vulnerability, in a way you would not expect from a film directed by a man called 'Rowdy Herrington'.
I won't reveal the funniest line in Road House, delivered during the very exciting fight between Dalton and Jimmy, Wesley's very most evilest and very lithe henchman. It is too hilariously obscene to repeat here, and also I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise for you when you see it.
Anyway, as you can probably tell, I love this film and have seen it way too many times. Remaking Road House with the slightly non-descript Jake Gyllenhaal filling Swayze's karate slippers seems a bit mad. But then again, so was everything about the original. What's the worst that could happen?