The Hindu (Mumbai)

Action tapers into silliness

Fans of the trilogy might be disappoint­ed with the simplifica­tion and changes, but this adaptation is goodlookin­g and bingeable

- Bhuvanesh Chandar

ake Gyllenhaal’s latest action outing, Road House, is a film meant to tickle your memories of watching old school action films; it wastes no time in conveying how serious it will take itself when minutes into the film, a character asks Gyllenhaal’s character if his situation seems more like a plot of a Western movie, “in which local townsfolk send for a hero to help clean up the rowdy saloon”.

And that is just the plot of Road

JHouse, the 1989 Patrick Swayzestar­ring B action film, which in its own way paid tribute to Western movies, and gained a cult following in the years to come. Gyllenhaal’s remake, directed by Doug Liman, retains all of the original film’s popular tropes but has tremendous fun, at least initially.

Everything is done to be a little extra. For instance, unlike Swayze’s James Dalton, Gyllenhaal’s Elwood Dalton is not a mystery man from New York City; this guy is an exUFC fighter from the Florida Keys who goes from cute to psycho in the blink of an eye. This problemati­c quality gets him a job in the small town of Glass Key to protect a roadhouse owned by Frankie ( Jessica Williams) named Road House. After scaring off Post Malone’s fiery boxer Carter and treating a stab wound like a toothpick prick, we see Dalton hit the brake on an impulsive suicide attempt on a railway track, and you know that a flashback on his trauma is waiting to come.

You feel a certain contrivanc­e and urgency in how the other lead characters are introduced and fleshed out throughout the film. Billy Magnussen plays Ben Brandt, the rich brat who is the real reason behind all the troubles at Road House. Conor McGregor plays Knox, a maniac sent to sweeten things up for Ben, and the details of his entrance are so outlandish this happens halfway through the first episode.

We are simultaneo­usly shown Wenjie’s life in Mongolia where she is first doing hard labour and then joins the Red Coast, a military project tracking spy satellites and also secretly trying to communicat­e with alien life forms. Wenjie makes a breakthrou­gh and is able to send a message to the aliens. Her choice at that moment has horrific repercussi­ons in the present.

Jin finds a sophistica­ted virtual reality game Vera was playing before she died. The gameworld ricochets between stable and chaotic weather systems and the objective is to be able to predict the switches. Characters dressed as scientists and thinkers from history including Galileo, Isaac Newton, Alan Turing and Aristotle feature in the game positing their theories.

In the shadows are the rich, radical environmen­talist Mike Evans ( Jonathan Pryce) who seems to be following the presentday events with great interest and Wade (Liam Cunningham), who is some sort of topsecret government official. There is of course an impending alien invasion to prepare for and it is all hands on deck for the

earthlings. it is better left unrevealed.

Together, these three edgy men do mad, mad things, while a forced love track between Dalton and a doctor,

Ellie (Daniela Melchior), comes and goes. The cherry on the top is the inclusion of Charlie (Hannah Love Lanier), an innocent young girl minding her father’s bookstore. Everything is so tailormade and perfectly arranged that you can see the twists from a mile away.

To the film’s credit, there is ample comedic relief to break the bore, but when the plot tapers into utter silliness, you are left confused about its motivation­s. One begins to wonder if this is a film that banks solely on a purported shtick of nostalgia baiting the fans of the original. And while Elwood’s characteri­sation inadverten­tly makes you curious, Gyllenhaal comes across as a misfit, especially after Conor’s entry. For all the backstory and hype Elwood gets, you hardly feel the lunacy in the action sequences. In fact, Conan, as this seemingly cokedup menace, lights up the screen much more in his later scenes.

Road House is a popcorn film with some genuinely fun ideas, but it loses control of the narrative.

Road House is currently streaming on Prime Video

Thanks to Chris Nolan and Cillian Murphy, physicists are suddenly the coolest dudes on the planet and the fabulous five is empirical proof of that theory. If only that geek god, Jeff Goldblum, could have popped by to play chess or say oops!

works spectacula­rly well in parts — that human abacus scene was sheer jawdrop quality as were the dehydrate/rehydrate cycles. Scenes of cold beauty jostle for space with those of heartwrenc­hing terror— the scene where the repurposed oil tanker, the Judgment Day, comes up against the nanoweb is the stuff of nightmares. The scenes in China and Mongolia featuring a young Wenjie are moving. Ramin Djawadi’s music is spookily spectacula­r.

Where falters is in its awkward love story, sappy sentimenta­lity and shoehornin­g of inclusivit­y (‘tum keede ho’, the aliens beam helpfully on an Indian street). Some of the dialogue could have used by some scissor work by script doctors. The series also suffers from an unseemly haste as in its desire for pace, it jams high concepts into cardboard philosophy.

Despite these flaws, moves smoothly, not asking much of the viewer but to luxuriate in the wonderful visuals as beautiful people tentativel­y spout quantum theory. While Jin pouts at her Naval officer boyfriend, Raj (Saamer Usmani), and Will pines for his unspoken love, one can always pass the time looking for Game of Thrones connection­s. Apart from Djawadi, Bradley, Cunningham,

Pryce and Kevin Eldon (as Sir Thomas More) are GoT alum. Incidental­ly, George RR Martin championed Liu Cixin’s novel. For those upset with playing fast and loose with Hugo Awardwinni­ng epic, the books will always be there. is streaming on Netflix

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