“Everything I’ve worked for [is gone]…over a fucking bouncer!”

I liked Doug Liman’s half-dopey, self-satirizing Road House much, much more than Rowdy Harrington’s 1989 version.

I don’t remember Harrington’s film being even randomly amusing, but Liman’s is occasionally hilarious, especially during the last half-hour, a CG extravaganza that plays like a kind of aquatic Road Warrior.

Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Elwood Dalton is a kind of grinning, shoulder-shrugging Shane-like figure — a deadpan space-case with a dry sense of humor, and some guilt by way of Robert E. Lee Prewitt thrown into the mix — a soft-spoken Zen guy with a fear of his own rage — a dude with an undertow of depression who almost wipes himself out on a rural railroad track at the very beginning but then goes “aahh, maybe not.”

Several weeks ago (i.e., 1.24.24) Liman called Gyllenhaal’s Dalton “a career-best performance.” That sounded like a reach when I read Liman’s Deadline essay, but now I see what he meant. At times you’re thinking it’s a lazy performance, and at other times one imbued with real spirit. And at the end you’re thinking “wow, that was exceptional in a fart-around way.”

The only problem with Liman’s version is that Henry Braham‘s interiors are under-lighted. The outdoor sunshine stuff is fine, but the bar scenes are nearly impossible to see, mostly mud and murk (or at least it looked this way on the 65-inch Sony OLED) — I was squinting my damn eyes and shouting at Liman and Braham, “C’mon, guys, there are ways to light these scenes without it looking like movie lighting!”.

Dean Cundey‘s lensing of Harrington’s version is certainly easier on the eyes.

Tatiana and I drove from Miami to Key West (i.e., the Overseas Highway) in November of ’17, and I was underwhelmed by the over-crowded downmarket vibe. “Just a slowish, congested, two-lane graytop with very little to recommend or be intrigued about,” I wrote.

The setting of Road House is a fictional community called Glass Key. As it turns out 99% of Liman’s film was shot in the Dominican Republican (Punta Cana and Santo Domingo). The only footage of the actual O.H. is a shot of Fred the Tree.

Did you know you could get stabbed in the stomach and keep fighting because it’s just a stab wound and only pussies let this kind of thing get in the way?

Did you know that many of the characters in Road House are related by blood (daughters, fathers, sons)? Well, they are.

Did you know that Gyllenhaal aside, most many of the Road House good guys are played by (a) actors of color, (b) the bad guys by scurvy, tattooed, chopper-riding white guys and (c) that the supporting cast includes an obese bartender?

Cheers also for the maniacal Conor McGregor as the chief growling animal, a shirtless beast named Knox…all I can say is, Travis Kelce has some serious competition as far as becoming Hollywood’s next high-testosterone guy .

I loved Billy Magnussen‘s performance as “Ben Brandt”, a shithead yuppie villain, because he clearly telegraphs that he knows he’s in an amusingly written attitude film, a put-on punch-out thing, and doesn’t give a shit either way.

I was also pleased by Joaquim de Almeida‘s sheriff, a 70-plus bad guy.

Daniela Melchior handles the significant girlfriend role (played by Kelly Lynch in the ’89 film) with assurance and solemnity. Hannah Lanier does pretty well as a laid-back teenaged bookseller. Jessica Williams is also approvable as Frankie, the owner of the Road House.