Road House (1989) vs Road House (2024)

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Road House (1989) is a fantastic action movie starring Patrick Swayze, Sam Elliott, Kelly Lynch and Ben Gazzara.

Road House (2024) starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Conor McGregor, Daniela Melchior, Billy Magnussen and Jessica Williams doesn’t quiet know what it wants to be.

Road House (2024) is directed by Doug Liman who has directed some good movies in the past; The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Edge of Tomorrow and American Made. The movie is written by a relative newcomer Anthony Bagarozzi, who only has one other writing credit for the movie The Nice Guys.

Bagarozzi shared writing credit on The Nice Guys with Shane Black. I’m guessing Black did most of the writing. Black is know for writing great movies like all the Lethal Weapon movies, The Monster Squad, The Last Boy Scout, The Last Action Hero and many more. Bagarozzi would do well to learn from Black on how to write a cohesive action movie.

Let’s start the comparison with the opening shots of the two movies.

Opening Shots

The opening shots of a movie set the tone of the movie, or a character. The two openings for Road House couldn’t be more different.

In Road House ’89 we see a packed nightclub where the bouncers are polite and the bartenders are friendly. The patrons are all having a good time. When one patron gets out of line, James Dalton (Swayze) politely asks them to leave.

The guy slashes Dalton’s shoulder with a knife and challenges him to a fight. Dalton says they will take it outside. Once outside Dalton ignores the taunts and walks back into the nightclub.

Inside Dalton is stitching his wound and Frank Tillman walks in, gives Dalton his business card and offers Dalton a job at the Double Deuce. Dalton tells Tillman his conditions and they agree.

Dalton drives his beat-up car to a parking garage, gets into his new Mercedes and drives to the Double Deuce.

In contrast, Road House (2024) shows a washed up drunk, Elwood Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal), fighting in underground bare knuckle fighting rings to earn money. And he doesn’t even fight. Dalton’s opponent is too scared just by seeing him and withdraws. The audience has no idea why.

Dalton gets stabbed in the parking lot, but the assailant runs away before taking any money. Presumable because he saw who he stabbed? Everyone is afraid of Dalton ’24 for unknown reasons. Then Dalton meets Frankie as he is stitching up a wound (call back to the original movie) and Frankie offers him a job.

Frankie tells Dalton the conditions of his employment and instead of handing him a business card, she writes her number down on a crumbled piece of paper from her purse. Dalton declines the job, drives off and parks his car on the railroad tracks waiting for the train to hit him.

The opening from Road House ’89 establishes Dalton as the one in control. He handles the aggressive drunk with skill and politeness and he tells Frank Tillman what he wants for the job.

The opening from Road House ’24 establishes Dalton as a suicidal drunk who appears to take whatever is handed to him and nothing in the opening or anytime after makes me care for the character.

Winner: Road House ’89

James Dalton vs Elwood Dalton

Road House Dalton

James Dalton is a veteran cooler with the skills to back it up. He is cool-headed, stoic and most importantly he’s nice. Until it’s time to not be nice. He’s a Renaissance man, we learn quickly that despite his profession he is a philosopher and well read, he’s humble and doesn’t get drawn into petty arguments.

Elwood Dalton is the other side of the coin. The writers try to give him depth but it doesn’t work. There’s never a point in the story we get to see what makes him tick. He says when he gets angry he can’t shut it off and that is what happened in the Octagon. But why is he getting mad in the Octagon? The other guy is supposed to be hitting him. Was he mad he was losing? The back story makes no sense and is unclear.

The whole purpose of Dalton ’89 was to clean up the bar as an experienced cooler, not some underground fighter. Dalton ’89 could read people. Not only did he know who was skimming money, he knew how they were doing it and how much it cost the bar every night. He knew who was dealing drugs, who was letting in underage girls, he knew everything.

Dalton ’24 sat at the bar and barely paid attention. He didn’t train the other ‘bouncers’ he just sent them in to fight and never once advised them to ‘take it outside’ despite the tag line on the movie poster.

There was nothing to show why Dalton ’24 was the man to clean up the bar. In fact from the very beginning Frankie wanted another fighter. And throughout the movie it’s stated there have been several bouncers who have come and gone.

Dalton ’89 had integrity for the job, he took pride in his work. Dalton’24 was hired because he knew how to fight.

Winner: Dalton ’89

Double Deuce vs The Road House

Road House Bar

The Double Deuce is a great, seedy, dive bar. It’s got everything, pool, darts, dancing girls, fights and a house band.

In Road House ’24 they named the bar ‘The Road House’ how dumb and lazy is that? They try to work in a joke on why it’s called ‘The Road House’ but it falls flat. How hard is it to come up with the name of a good dive bar in the Florida keys? How about The Sand Bar, Tiki’s, Beachcombers, it’s not hard to come up with a name. The joke was bad and so is the name.

There is a general progression with the Double Deuce as the bar gets cleaned up and the patrons are classier. There’s no progression with The Road House. It starts out looking like a decent bar and ends the same way.

At no time does The Road House seem like a dive bar with seedy characters threatening normal customers. It looks like a nice tourist bar. The fights between customers seem forced and the ‘motorcycle gang’ that terrorizes the place aren’t scary or threatening. And the slap fight in the parking lot was laughable.

There is a nice Easter egg when Elwood gets off the bus. He’s talking to the girl at the book store and the restaurant next to it is called the Double Deuce restaurant.

Winner: Double Deuce

Wade Garrett vs No One

Road House Wade

No modern actor can hold a candle to Sam Elliott, maybe that’s why the writers left his character out.

The real shame is without a mentor or partner Elwood Dalton feels like an empty character. Why not have him talk to his old trainer? Or a teammate from the past?

Winner: Wade Garrett

Brad Wesley vs Ben Brandt

Road House Villain

Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara) is a great villain. He’s an established town member who everyone is afraid to cross. He owns the town.

Wesley is the puppet master in the town. J.C. Penny’s is coming because of him! He is a small town mobster, forcing everyone to pay him 10% for a town ‘renewal fund.’ Everything that happens in town he knows about and controls. Dalton is a wild card he doesn’t like, but is certain he can contain.

Ben Brandt (Billy Magnussen) is a spoiled rich kid who is supposedly building a mega-million dollar resort. He inherited his dad’s money when daddy went to jail, for what we don’t know. Drugs is the implication.

Ben Brandt spends his time on a fancy catamaran upset the ocean is too bumpy. His henchmen are inept and rude to him; they talk back and insult him. He just yells back at them, asserting no real authority. When Knox shows up he shows his dominance over Ben and it’s easy to see who is in control. Hint, it’s not Ben.

When Wesley threatens someone there is an air of danger. He threatens with a smile but you can tell he would kill you with the same smile.

When Ben threatens someone it’s almost comical. There’s no sense of danger, more like a kid trying to act tough.

Winner: Brad Wesley

Doc Clay vs Doc Ellie

Road House Doc

Elizabeth ‘Doc’ Clay (Kelley Lynch) plays the love interest of James Dalton. They have instant chemistry and work well together as a couple. Almost from the start Doc is taken by Dalton and she doesn’t hide it.

Doc Ellie is an interesting character but seems like an after thought or a plot point. The Dalton-Ellie relationship is strange. It starts out with confrontation, then they see each other out in town and she seems to like Dalton. There’s nothing about the relationship that makes me care about it. If they went their separate ways it wouldn’t matter.

The opposite is true of the Doc-Dalton relationship from the ’89 movie. It’s obvious they care for each other in the short amount of time they’ve been together. Dalton introduces Doc to Wade Garrett, his only family, showing how much he cares.

Dalton ’24 has no one to talk with about Ellie. It’s a flat relationship that ultimately means nothing.

Do these young writers, with their Tinder, TikTok and texting know how to write a physical, passionate relationship? I don’t think so.

With all the machismo of the original movie there was also a love story weaved throughout. This new version is missing any form of a love story.

Winner: Doc Clay

Frank Tillman vs Frankie

Frank is an honest business man trying to make his bar the best it can be. He hires an experience bouncer, James Dalton, to clean up the bar and make it a fun and safe place to visit.

Frankie inherited the bar from Uncle and wants to make it work? It’s not like the Double Deuce with girls stripping, drug deals and endless bar brawls. The Road House seems like a find establishment and it’s always packed.

There was real conflict with Frank and Wesley. We knew their motivation. Frank wanted to build a great bar without the control of Wesley. Wesley demanded a payment for the town ‘renewal fund’ from every business.

In Road House ’24 there’s no clear reason why Ben is terrorizing The Road House. It isn’t until over half way through the movie we get some kind of idea.

Winner: Frank Tillman

Jimmy Reno vs Knox

Reno is the perfect 80s bad guy, he’s cocky and a bit of a maniac. He’s also loyal to his boss, Wesley.

Knox is a complete psychopath! The character is completely over-the-top and played well by Conor McGregor. He struts around like a jacked peacock, without a care in the world. The only draw back is he has no relationship with Ben Brandt. Knox is a lapdog of Ben’s father.

When Dalton ’89 beat Reno we knew it impacted Wesley’s operations. He lost his muscle, his main enforcer. There’s no such connection for Knox. If he succeeds or fails it doesn’t matter, Ben can hire more muscle to harass the bar. Ben is the only villain to eliminate, not Knox.

With all that said, I really liked Knox for being a completely over-the-top caricature of a villain.

Winner: Knox

Final Thoughts

Overall Road House (2024) was an OK movie. If it wasn’t called Road House, I might have liked it better. Unfortunately the only connection to the original movie was a guy named Dalton and a bar owner named Frank(ie).

Road House ’89 takes place in a small town and it feels like it. Dalton has to order a windshield from the hardware store. Everyone is either related or they go back for decades. Dalton rents a room across the lake from Wesley’s mansion and even Doc and Wesley have a history together. Everything is interconnected.

Road House ’24 feels to spread out. The bus stop with the book store is miles from The Road House and Dalton lives on a boat in the Marina. We never see where Ben lives, maybe on the catamaran? Nothing is connected.

The only character who is given a little depth is Charlie who runs the bookstore with her dad. Unfortunately she is a minor character who adds nothing to the story. The writers should have given her a bigger role or left her out.

Then there’s the location. Road House ’89 is set in Missouri, no need to show the scenery. Road House ’24, however, is set in the Florida Keys and filmed in the Dominican Republic. Why not show off the fantastic scenery and beautiful people?

At one point Frankie is telling Dalton how great the view is and people could get married at The Road House… the scene takes place at night. The audience is never able to see the, supposed, great view or why someone would want to get married there. Show us so we are invested in the bar and want it to succeed.


Instead we get a dark scene and have to imagine what the beautiful ocean looks like. That scene should have taken place on a sunny day with tons of beachgoers everywhere. Missed opportunity and the movie is worse off.

Another thing Road House ’24 is lacking is experience, what I mean is there are no older characters. The whole movie feels like High School kids playing grown-up. It’s like 90210: Florida Keys edition. Frankie is young and inherited a bar. The staff barely look old enough to serve drinks.

Doc Ellie is young and looks like she could still be in Med school, not running a local emergency department.

Ben is young and inherited his daddy’s money. His henchmen are all young and inexperienced. Really only Conor McGregor looks to have any experience. His experience is implied but never really confirmed. Is he a hard core hitman or just another bruiser for hire?

Road House ’89 is a well written story with flushed out characters. Road House ’24 isn’t as cohesive and the characters lack any depth. When Wade Garrett died (spoiler) in Road House ’89 I cared, I felt Dalton’s pain in losing a friend and mentor. There wasn’t a single character in Road House ’24 that connects with the audience and makes you care. They all seem replacable.

I recommend Road House ’89 over Road House ’24. If you’re a Jake Gyllenhaal fan you’ll want to watch Road House ’24. Otherwise grab a copy of Road House ’89 and watch it instead, it’s much better. Both movies are streaming on Amazon Prime

Did you watch the new Road House movie? If so let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on X(Twitter). The main Geekster channel is @TRNSocial and I’m @MileHighSamurai

About Pitfall Gary 126 Articles
Just your average Gen X'er. Born in the 70s and raised in the Decade of Decadence! I rode my bike without a helmet and was home when the street lights came on. I love to reminisce about the good ol' days; Movies, TV, music, if it happened in my childhood I'll share it with you.

1 Comment

  1. I feel like someone had a movie idea, and somewhere in production they realized it was just an ok movie, and decided to try to add some Flair and changed a few things to make it a “remake”. I agree with the thought that if it had another name that didn’t invoke the original, I might have liked it a little better. It’s still an alright movie though, and I don’t feel like I wasted my time watching it.

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