By Lynn Venhaus

I was bored silly by Amazon’s unnecessary, ultraviolent streaming remake of “Road House,” a pale imitation of the original 1989 cheese-fest that starred the chiseled Patrick Swayze rocking a mullet as James Dalton, a black belt in karate and a Ph.D. in philosophy.

Granted, I am not the demo. This re-imagining is a macho man’s movie.

In “Southpaw” (2015) fighting mode, Oscar-nominated Jake Gyllenhaal is a campy, corny Dalton for the 21st century, a troubled soul who speaks with his fast fists. With the first name of Elwood, he’s jacked as an ex-UFC mixed martial arts fighter who pummels many a tough guy.

But sadly, Gyllenhaal is flat, nowhere near as magnetic as the late great Swayze, who knew how to elevate his roaming cooler in that rowdy ‘80s B-movie with his off-the-charts charisma, a world-class side-eye, and a Zen approach.

Devoid of any charm – where is Sam Elliott when you desperately need him? – this new version is mostly wall-to-wall vicious blood-spurting fighting where people are intent on maiming and breaking bones. It’s a whole lot of ugly. (Not that Swayze didn’t crack some liquored-up redneck skulls and rack up a high-body count).

The filmmakers have switched the location from a roughneck Jasper, Missouri honkytonk, the Double Deuce, to a coastal paradise in the Florida Keys, a fictional place called Glass Key Island. The open-air beach spot, owned by Jessica Williams (of “Shrinking”), is generically called “Road House,” and its claim to fame is that Hemingway drank there. OK…

In his new role as a highly paid bar bouncer, Elwood’s lean mean fighting machine takes on a lot of low-life high-wattage testosterone, and we watch big sweaty guys covered in tattoos mess with each other.

They unwisely pick fights with Dalton, who tries to control a deep well of rage. But like Swayze, he’s incorruptible and far smarter than the goons he’s tasked with keeping in line.

Co-screenwriters Anthony Bagarozzi and Chuck Mondry plus R. Lance Hill, whose name appeared on the first one as David Lee Henry, responsible for the story and screenplay with Hilary Henkin, have collaborated on a thin, uneven story with extremely ridiculous dialogue. Maybe they used AI because that script is soulless.

Like the original, it takes itself far too seriously – and should just have some fun with the over-the-top melodrama. Most surprisingly, it is directed by Doug Liman, who has helmed several crowd-pleasing films, like “Swingers,” “The Bourne Identity” and “Edge of Tomorrow.” Where is the verve?

The unremarkable cast brings very little personality to this tale and play mostly unlikable characters. In an off-putting opening, Post Malone, the singer, plays a hulking guy who isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, and later, as a major big deal, Irish professional boxer Conor McGregor has a protracted fight, but his acting skills are severely limited.

The supporting cast providing the story’s conflicts are no match for the original – love interest Kelly Lynch had electric chemistry with Swayze while Melchior isn’t given much to do in this second go-round. Ben Gazzara’s slimy crime lord was a far superior villain than Billy Magnussen’s hard-to-believe slick corporate manipulator.

Furniture and glass break, bodies break, and the whole metaphysical dilemma about people’s purpose on earth is given a once-over. Eyes glare, fists fly, and highly choreographed fights ensue – although pointlessly heavily CGI’d in the remake.

Whatever floats your boat, but this floundering “Road House” doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. It seems to be just a whole lotta empty noise.

“Road House” is a 2024 action-thriller directed by Doug Liman and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Daniela Melchior, Billy Magnussen, Jessica Williams, Conor McGregor, Lukas Cage, Hannah Lanier, and Post Malone. It is rated R for violence throughout, pervasive language and some nudity and has a run time of 2 hours, 1 minute. It began streaming on Amazon Prime on March 21. Lynn’s Grade: D-.

The original “Road House” is now streaming on MAX, FYI.

The 1989 “Road House” original cast of Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch and Sam Elliott.

By Lynn Venhaus
An American remake that is as tense and gripping as the 2018 Danish original, “The Guilty” will surprise with its carefully crafted twists in a story you think you have figured out – but assumptions are a dangerous tool.

“The Guilty” takes place over the course of a single morning in a 911 dispatch call center. Call operator Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to save an emergency caller in grave danger, but he soon discovers that nothing is as it seems, and facing the truth is the only way out.

Gyllenhaal bought the rights to the acclaimed foreign language film, which won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018 and was Denmark’s entry for the Oscars (not nominated; “Roma” won) three years ago. (The original is currently streaming on Hulu.)

As a producer, he cast himself as the lead, a demoted police officer working as a 911 dispatcher, and assembled a crackerjack team.

The creative crew – including screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto, of HBO’s “True Detective,” has not changed much, but moved the location from Copenhagen to Los Angeles, where the public safety personnel are involved in quelling wildfires. The call center displays horrific scenes of fire ravaging the landscape on its multi-screens.

Original screenwriters Gustav Moeller, who also directed the 2018 film, and Emile Nygaard Albertsen, had written such a compelling script that it really didn’t need much embellishment. It’s a brilliant example of building tension in a contained area in a race against time.

Above all, the source material illustrated that a rush to judgment is often counterproductive. The takeaway is that one should not jump to conclusions before all the details are available.

One change is the temperament of Baylor. Whereas in the original, Swedish actor Jakob Cedergren played the conflicted police officer with a more stoic demeanor, they both are frustrated by the petty calls clogging up the system and show little patience.

Gyllenhaal is a more intense actor, so he plays Joe with pent-up rage. While he answers routine calls, he seems a little more on edge, his inhaler present. Turns out he has a trial set for the next day, but the charges are not revealed right away. Through his conversations with others, we piece it together.

Emily, a mother of two who is in the process of getting a divorce, calls 911, whispers for help, and Joe soon gets involved in a complicated case. She is frantically voiced by Riley Keough.

Gyllenhaal’s ferocity will sometimes get in the way of cool, calm decision making under pressure. He will say and do things that further heighten a dangerous scenario.

Clearly, his conscience is wrestling with some other issues. As a beat cop, he’s trying to be a hero – is this a means of redemption?

Director Antoine Fuqua knows a thing or two about shooting action films – his collaborations with Denzel Washington include the Equalizer reboot and its sequel, the “Magnificent Seven” remake and Washington’s Oscar winner “Training Day.” He directed Gyllenhaal in “Southpaw.”

Fuqua makes a fairly stagnant situation bristle with adrenaline and anxiety. What kind of peril is Emily in? As the film unfolds, we will be able to see the bigger picture.

The voice work is stellar, as one would expect from the supporting players. Besides Keough being the distraught victim on the other end of the phone, Peter Sarsgaard (Gyllenhaal’s brother-in-law in real life) plays her husband Henry, who is living separately from their family.

Ethan Hawke, an Oscar nominee for “Training Day,” is a police sergeant whose work banter with Joe indicates familiarity. Paul Dano, who directed Gyllenhaal in the underrated “Wildlife,” plays a VIP who is mugged while visiting the City of Angels.

The editing by Jason Ballantine is impressive, and the music score by Brazilian composer Marcelo Zarvos conveys an urgency that increases the helpless feelings coming through the phones.

At a 90-minute runtime, Fuqua keeps it taut, and Gyllenhaal displays the effects of compromised morality that’s a necessary ingredient. While this may not be better than the original – they did this tale first after all, so there is a lack of surprise if you have seen it – but for American audiences experiencing it as new material, this puts the thrill in thriller.

“The Guilty” is a thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua and stars Jake Gyllenhaal. Voice work is by Riley Keough, Peter Sarsgaard, Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano. It is Rated R for language throughout and is 90 minutes. In theatres Sept. 24 and streaming on Netflix Oct. 1.
Lynn’s Grade: B+