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‘Road House’ bounces along on a wave of nostalgia in updating a guilty pleasure

Laura Radford/Prime Video

The original “Road House” has long been the guiltiest of pleasures, a movie that seems to be in a perpetual loop on cable, with Patrick Swayze as the philosopher-bouncer immortalizing lines like “Pain don’t hurt.” A 35-years-later update brings some of that allure to Amazon, with Jake Gyllenhaal as the reluctant warrior toting a bit more baggage, in a film that’s equal parts entertaining, silly and wildly violent (not always in that order).

Among the departures, Gyllenhaal’s version of bouncer Dalton has a first name, and cleaning up bars actually isn’t his stock in trade. Passing on a layup, nobody ever actually tells him that, given his reputation, they assumed he would be bigger.

Rather, the world-weary former mixed-martial-arts fighter gets recruited to the film’s central task by the new-ish owner (Jessica Williams) of a spot called The Road House in the Florida Keys, telling him that she needs help removing the seedier element so she can make a go of the place.

Reluctant at first, circumstances prod Dalton to take the gig, quickly demonstrating why he’s someone with whom you should not want to mess.

“Before we start, do you have insurance?” he asks a gang of motorcycle-riding hooligans before effortlessly dispatching them, which vaguely calls to mind the elevator sequence in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Alas, “Road House” probably peaks there, before incorporating elements from the earlier movie like the conveniently attractive emergency-room doctor (“The Suicide Squad’s” Daniela Melchior) to whom Dalton sends a lot of business, and the stock bad guy (Billy Magnussen) determined to chase away The Road House’s owner in order to take control of the property.

There’s also a muscle-for-hire type enlisted to deal with Dalton when the task proves too much for the local talent, here played by UFC champion Conor McGregor, who exhibits a swaggering physical presence offset by the fact that even when snarling out basic tough-guy dialogue, his acting represents a work in progress.

Director Doug Liman’s credits include “The Bourne Identity” with Matt Damon, and he brings some of that kinetic style to the fight sequences here, which are fast and brutal. Having toned up for the gig, Gyllenhaal brings an extra dose of smart-alecky-ness to this incarnation, but his dark secret, and desire to shackle his vengeful side, feels especially trite, not that it really matters in terms of the job at hand.

By that measure, this “Road House” mirrors the basic appeal of the original without quite matching it, which, with the nostalgia factor, should have given the movie a shot, like Dalton, of punching above its weight class at the box office. For that reason, Liman’s public disappointment about the decision to send the movie directly to Amazon’s Prime Video – including an oped piece for Deadline – feels justified, to the extent that choice likely left some money on the table.

Like the 1989 movie, “Road House” grows more ridiculous toward the end, when Dalton has to go beyond just the bar and clean up the whole lawless town. Then again, at least the picturesque setting allows for a more scenic climax than just breaking into the villain’s house.

The challenge with any reboot invariably involves capturing what people liked about its inspiration while bringing fresh wrinkles to it. On that level “Road House” moderately works – specifically, for the intended audience – with the disclaimer that trying to look bigger and being bigger aren’t necessarily one and the same.

“Road House” premieres March 21 on Amazon’s Prime Video. It’s rated R.

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