Road House movie review & film summary (2024)

March 9, 2024 - Movies


When “Road House” opens, Elwood Dalton (Gyllenhaal) has fallen from grace. We don’t know how, but we know he’s so famous and so physically imposing that he scares combatants (including Post Malone) out of a fight club ring before they even throw a punch. (And credit to Gyllenhaal and his physical trainers for making him entirely believable as a former UFC middleweight.) After a fight that gets canceled before it starts, Dalton is approached by a woman named Frankie (Jessica Williams), who owns a roadhouse in Glass Key, Florida that’s named, of course, Road House. Her establishment has been threatened by local, motorcycle-riding tough guys for weeks and she can barely stay open. She needs a bouncer. She needs Dalton.

Of course, “Road House” isn’t just about a bouncer at a bar in the Florida Keys. It turns out there’s a lot more to the violence in Frankie’s bar than the local drunks. A real estate power player named Ben Brandt (Billy Magnussen), who inherited an empire from a criminal father, is trying to get Frankie to shut the operation down. Dalton comes in and takes care of Ben’s lackies in a series of scenes that are pretty well-choreographed and conceived. They also set Dalton’s character as the kind of guy who drives his enemies to the hospital after he beats them up.

At said hospital, Dalton meets a doctor named Ellie (Daniela Melchior), who challenges his alleged altruism—after all, he just clogged up her ER with a bunch of idiots who wouldn’t be there if he wasn’t such a tough guy in the first place. Obviously, Ellie will be the love interest for Dalton, but the film takes forever to get there and then backs away from their relationship almost immediately, turning elements of Ellie’s life into plot twists. It’s understandable that Dalton is hesitant to be happy again given the trauma that’s revealed about his past, but the dynamic between him and Ellie is one of several in this film that feels uncertain of its own purpose. In the ‘80s movies that “Road House” so desperately wants to be, there’d be actual passion between Dalton and Ellie instead of the tentative stuff that unfolds here more out of narrative necessity.

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