The Previous Attempt to Remake the 1980s Classic


Saying the two simple words “Road House” is bound to get any fan of 1980s movies pumped up. The 1989 feature Road House was a seminal entry in this genre, if for no other reason than reaffirming the star power of Patrick Swayze. This guy could make you swoon one minute and then believably take on foes in hand-to-hand combat the next without missing a beat. The enjoyably over-the-top sensibilities of the movie have made it a classic for countless viewers. Given its ubiquity, not to mention that MGM has long been determined to remake so many of its classic titles, it’s no surprise that a Road House remake is on the horizon anchored by Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Doug Liman.

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The jury’s still out on whether or not this update will work or not. But what is apparent is that this isn’t the first time Hollywood has attempted to put a new spin on the Road House legend. In fact, there have been several attempts to deliver a modern remake of this beloved feature.

The first of these attempts at a remake came about in 2015 when it was announced that Ronda Rousey would headline a new version of Road House. Coming fresh off Rousey’s supporting turns in The Expendables 3, Entourageand Furious 7, this was a moment where it looked like Rousey might be able to take off as a film actor. Making her first star vehicle a remake of a familiar action movie wouldn’t be the worst next step in her career. Whether she had the chops to actually anchor a theatrical release, was a whole other story.


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The promise of this project got even dimmer when Nick Cassavetes was hired to direct the movie. Rather than hire someone with experience with action sequences, such as Lexi Alexander or Chad Stahleskic, Road House had hired someone whose career had been spent doing journeyman work on an assortment of dramas and comedies. Certainly, good action directors can come from anywhere, but it would’ve been extra reassuring to have an experienced pro at punching-heavy movies around on a Road House remake anchored by a UFC fighter with minimal acting experience. Already, it looked like things were spiraling well out of control for the Road House remake.

But then, even after scoring a director and a leading lady, this Road House remake fizzled out and never went anywhere. Part of this may have been Rousey stabling out as an on-screen performer. Though she would get to reaffirm her commitment to action movies with the 2018 feature Mile 22, other projects that she was set to star in, including a potential Tina Fey comedy, never went anywhere. However, the demise of Road House probably has less to do with Rousey failing to take off as a massive action star and more to do with the type of movie it was: an MGM remake.

In the 2010s, as some of its first projects after emerging from bankruptcy, MGM put the pedal to the metal on remakes, sequels, and other continuations of classic titles from not only its library but also the library of studios it had bought over the years like Orion Pictures and United Artists. Some of these franchise extensions, primarily Creed, turned out well critically and financially. But more often than not, exploiting the past just didn’t interest audiences. remake like career, Poltergeistand RoboCop went belly-up at the box office, while sequels such as Hot Tub Time Machine 2 were largely ignored. Projects that were supposed to provide guaranteed box office wins for MGM were instead bleeding money.

Just under a year after Road House was announced, MGM experienced its biggest box office failure in terms of remakes, a 2016 update of Ben Hur. starring Jack Huston and Toby Kebbellthis update was meant to please fans of both God’s Not Dead and Fast & Furious with equal levels of success. Instead, it made only $94.1 million on a massive $100 million budget. If the brand name Ben Hur wasn’t enough to lure audiences to movie theaters, then most other titles in the MGM library were bound to struggle. While MGM would still release a handful of remakes (such as the 2018 Death Wish) in the years after Ben Hurthey became less prominent in the mainstream cinema scene.

We’ll never know if Ben Hur directly led to the demise of Ronda Rousey’s Road House, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the financial struggles of this and other MGM remakes, combined with Rousey never taking off as a big star, helped ensure this remake never saw the light of day. For years, there was no further word on a potential Road House remake until November 2021 rolled around. This is when news broke that Jake Gyllenhaal and Doug Liman were set to star and direct in a new take on the property. Suddenly, several problems were solved at once for this project. Gyllenhaal was a proven movie star and Liman, thanks to projects like The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrowwas well-versed in action cinema.

Months later, it was confirmed that the project was not only moving forward but would also be debuting on Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service. This took care of another prospective problem for a potential Road House remake regarding it suffering the same box office fate as Ben Hur. That would no longer be a problem if Road House went straight to streaming, where viewership numbers would be hidden. MGM wouldn’t need to worry about the Road House brand name getting tarnished with poor box office numbers, and Amazon got a star-studded feature film that fits right in with the vibes of its recently hit TV shows like reacher and movies like The Tomorrow War.

Only time will tell whether the Road House remake is good enough to justify its existence. But what we do know is that it’s been a long road to existence for this prospective project. Strangely enough, the struggles of the Road House update do provide a great road map for the shifting business strategies of MGM over the last decade. Specifically, the various iterations of this feature reflect MGM evolving from a studio focused on re-establishing its footing with remakes to being an Amazon company that needs to provide its new owner with streaming “content.” It even reflects Jake Gyllenhaal’s shifting career trajectory. When the remake was first announced, Gyllenhaal was almost exclusively doing dark dramas like nightcrawlerwhereas Road House is consistent with his modern forays into action movies directed by Michael Bay and Guy Ritchie.


If this remake proves half as compelling as the pieces of greater historical context that have informed its various iterations, then perhaps this new Road House will be able to live up to that Patrick Swayze classic.

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