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4 Reasons Why The Road House Remake Is Better Than The 1989 Original (And 4 Reasons Why It's Not)

 Jake Gyllenhaal and Patrick Swayze.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Patrick Swayze.

The 1989 movie Road House starring Patrick Swayze may not be in my top 10 favorite movies of all time, but it’s definitely in my top 20. So, when I heard that there was going to be a remake to one of my favorite films, I immediately got turned off. First, they want to remake Big Trouble in Little China, and now, Road House? Get outta here!

But, lo and behold, Doug Liman’s remake is actually really good! And we said as such in our review. So, okay, they actually made a worthy Road House remake. However, I wouldn’t say that it’s the rare remake that is actually superior to the original, like Scarface, or The Fly. There are a few things that I think are holding it back.

That said, there are also a few things that I feel improve upon the original, which I’ll get into shortly. And, if you don’t like what I have to say, then I’ll invite you to my trophy room. The only thing that’s missing…is your ass!

Oh, and spoilers for the original Road House.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Road House
Jake Gyllenhaal in Road House

Better: It Makes More Sense Why This Dalton Can Kick So Much Ass

One thing that doesn’t make much sense in the original is that Patrick Swayze can kick so much ass. I’m not saying that it’s bizarre that he can fight. I mean, movie magic can make anybody look like a badass (Or, enhance their badassery. Like Keanu Reeves!). But, why the hell does Patrick Swayze’s Dalton know martial arts? It seems so out of character for a cooler, and it’s simply explained away with a scene of Dalton training by the water.

But, at least we get a better sense of why Jake Gyllenhaal’s Dalton is such a tough guy. The remake straightaway introduces you to him in a fight club, and we later learn that he was a cage fighter in a former life. So, it makes sense that he can beat up everybody in the room. It doesn’t make sense, however, why he in particular was chosen to be a cooler given that he has no prior experience, but hey, I’ll allow it.

Patrick Swayze in Road House
Patrick Swayze in Road House

Not Better: I Much Prefer How Unassuming Patrick Swayze's Dalton Is As An Asskicker

One thing that I absolutely love about the original Road House is that people keep telling Dalton that they assumed he would be bigger, given his reputation. At 5’11’’, Patrick Swayze was no slouch, but the film mostly had him up against giants, so that he could humble them quickly with a punch here, and a kick there. As the man himself said, “Take the biggest guy in the world; you smash him in the knee and he’ll drop like a stone.”

I do like Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Dalton (and if the two Daltons got into a fight, I wonder who would win). But, I much prefer that there was a creative decision to make Patrick Swayze’s Dalton much more unassumingly dangerous. As a smaller guy myself, I look up to people like that.

Jake Gyllenhaal talking to Lukas Gage in Road House.
Jake Gyllenhaal talking to Lukas Gage in Road House.

Better: The Music

Now, I actually like the music in the original Road House. It’s a lot twangier, and it gives the movie much more of a hick vibe, which really sets the mood.

However, one thing that I really enjoy about the music in the remake is that it’s much more varied. At one point, there’s a cover of a Sublime song, and I’m all about that life.

That said, another reason why the music is more effective in the remake is that it syncs up so nicely with the violence. I also feel that the music really fits the beach vibe that this movie’s going for. It’s nice.

Grabbing tires in Road House
Grabbing tires in Road House

Not Better: The Original Felt A Lot Grimier, Which Better Fit The Story

I saw the original Road House on my TV screen, just like I saw this remake. I know some people are upset that the 2024 film went right to streaming rather than to the theaters, and I get it. The remake is much bigger and more colorful than the original. There are shots of wide open blue skies and violent waves. Colorful beach attire, and plenty of blood. And that’s all great.

However, I can’t help but prefer the smaller, grimier feel of the original movie. A lot of the original makes me feel claustrophobic, which I think is super effective. It’s all really grungy, and tight. So much so, that I can practically smell the spilt beer on the floor. I honestly think that tone fits the story so much more than the, I want to say, “cleaner” version that we get with this remake.

If I was on vacation, violence aside, I don’t think I’d mind stopping in this Road House. It has great music, good drinks, and it looks like a lot of fun! Which I DON’T think works for a movie like this. The dirt and grime in the original was much more effective.

Conor McGregor in Road House 2024
Conor McGregor in Road House 2024

Better: The Conor McGregor Character

Critics have praised Conor McGregor’s performance, and for good reason. He steals the whole movie every time he’s on the screen. In fact, our introduction to the character is of him walking down the street naked, only for him to rob somebody of their shirt. Now THAT’S an intro.

And it doesn’t stop there, either, as he’s the perfect antagonist for Jake Gyllenhaal’s Dalton. I mentioned earlier how Gyllenhaal’s character is a tough guy (who looks it). And, to be frank, even though I was enjoying the film for the first hour or so, it wasn’t until Conor McGregor’s character appeared that I really sat up and paid attention.

Sure, his acting isn’t the greatest in the world, but he’s so menacing, that most of his performance is merely in the way he swings his arms like a gorilla. There isn’t really a character like McGregor’s Knox in the original. The closest we get is this other martial arts expert who said he, uh, had sexual relations with guys like Dalton in prison. I mean, that’s definitely a memorable moment, but not as memorable as Knox as a whole.

Sam Elliott in Road House
Sam Elliott in Road House

Not Better: No Sam Elliott Character

Okay, so this is probably the biggest change from the original, but there’s no wise old man archetype in the remake. In the original, that character is Wade Garrett, played by the incomparable Sam Elliott, and he’s so cool because our hero looks up to HIM. When we finally meet him, he evens the odds for Dalton, and they bust up a bunch of punks who are trying to halt the Road House from getting their liquor shipment.

Sam Elliott is always wonderful, but he’s especially great here, given what ultimately happens to him, which leads us to the explosive climax. I do like that Gyllenhaal’s Dalton eventually finds himself and makes peace with who he is, but come on now. Every movie is better with Sam Elliott (You hear that, Academy?!), so a character like him being absent from the remake feels like a gaping hole.

Lukas Gage in Road House
Lukas Gage in Road House

Better: The Side Characters Are More Enjoyable

So, I know I said that the remake is missing a Sam Elliott-like character, but all of the other characters in this remake are substantially better than the original. And I’m talking from the common thug, to the helpful hospital employee, to the corrupt cops.

I mentioned earlier how the original has a very out-in-the-backroads feeling to it, and it does. So the characters fit that setting. That said, all the side characters in this remake are so much livelier, that it really elevates the film. Whereas Conor McGregor’s character is the most bombastic in the movie, it really feels like all of the characters have lives outside of the story taking place, which I think really works in this remake’s favor.

Smiling before monster truck destruction in Road House
Smiling before monster truck destruction in Road House

Not Better: It’s Missing The Sheer Lunacy Of The Original

One reason (Maybe even the main reason) why I love the original Road House so much is because it’s downright bonkers. There’s one scene in particular that always stands out to me. It involves a monster truck crushing a whole row of cars just to send a message.

But, it’s just so ridiculous that I love it so much. The moment you first see that monster truck pull up to the Road House, you just know it’s going to be used later in the film. It’s like Chekhov’s gun, but this time, it’s Chekhov’s monster truck!

And, the whole movie is weird like that. The film crescendos with all the business leaders in town shooting the main bad guy with shotguns, and then they all hide their weapons when the cops arrive, and cover for each other. But, it’s all played like a joke. This remake is fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not weird. And I miss that lunacy.

But, what do you think? Did you like the remake better than the original? For more news on all things Road House-related, be sure to swing by here often!