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Road House controversy explained as remake hits Prime Video

Jake Gyllenhaal takes on the role made famous by Patrick Swayze

ROAD HOUSE, Jake Gyllenhaal, 2024. ph: Laura Radford /© Amazon Prime Video / Courtesy Everett Collection
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the remake of Road House which has courted some controversy ahead of its release. (Prime Video)

Patrick Swayze's Road House is a classic of the '80s, and with studios constantly looking for established IP to remake it shouldn't come as a surprise that Amazon has done just that with a new Road House reboot available to view right now — what is a surprise is the controversy around it.

Read more: What to watch on Prime Video in March 2024

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, the 2024 take on Road House reimagines the story for a new generation. It follows the actor's character Elwood Dalton, an ex-UFC fighter who lands a job at a bar in Florida Keys which turns out to be very different to what meets the eye.

All sounds fairly innocuous, right? So why has the film become the subject of much backlash? Let's examine it more closely.

The Road House remake row explained

Conor McGregor and Jake Gyllenhaal in Road House, a remake of the 1989 film. (Prime Video)
Conor McGregor and Jake Gyllenhaal in Road House, a remake of the 1989 film. The film's director boycotted its release at SXSW because it is going straight to streaming. (Prime Video)

Straight to streaming release

Road House is set to go straight to streaming, which has created some controversy especially because director Doug Liman boycotted the film's release at SXSW as a result. Liman said he did so as he felt the film should have been released in cinemas rather than go direct to Prime Video.

In an essay for Deadline, Liman said: "I signed up to make a theatrical motion picture for MGM. Amazon bought MGM. Amazon said make a great film and we will see what happens. I made a great film."

He added: "What else could I have delivered to the studio? Nothing, it turns out. Because contrary to their public statements, Amazon has no interest in supporting cinemas.

"Amazon will exclusively stream Road House on Amazon’s Prime. Amazon asked me and the film community to trust them and their public statements about supporting cinemas, and then they turned around and are using Road House to sell plumbing fixtures."

USA. Jake Gyllenhaal and Lukas Gage  in a scene from the (C)Amazon Prime Video new film: Road House (2024) .  Plot: An ex-UFC middleweight fighter ends up working at a rowdy bar in the Florida Keys where things are not as they seem. A remake of the Patrick Swayze 1989 version that took place in Kansas and starred Sam Neil and Ben Gazara Ref: LMK110-J10490-290124 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets. pictures@lmkmedia.com
Jake Gyllenhaal has said it was 'always clear' that the film was going to streaming. (Prime Video)

Gyllenhaal refuted these claims, telling Total Film magazine that Amazon "was always clear that it was streaming" though he admired the directors "tenacity" and for "advocating for filmmakers, and film in the cinema, and theatrical releases".

The actor said: "I just want as many people to see it as possible. And I think we’re living in a world that’s changing in how we see and watch movies, and how they’re made. What’s clear to me, and what I loved so much, was [Liman’s] deep love for this movie, and his pride at how much he cares for it, how good he feels it is, and how much people should see it."

Copyright infringement lawsuit

USA. Patrick Swayze  in a scene from the (C)United Artists film: Road House (1989).  Plot: A tough bouncer is hired to tame a dirty bar. Ref: LMK110-J10494-290124 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets. pictures@lmkmedia.com
Patrick Swayze in Road House. The original film's screenwriter is suing MGM and Amazon Studios over copyright infringement.

The film's original screenwriter R. Lance Hill, whose pen name is David Lee Henry, is suing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Amazon Studios over copyright infringement. The writer alleges that the companies have ignored the fact that he reclaimed the rights for his 1986 screenplay of the original film.

According to Hill's lawsuit, the writer filed a petition for the copyright of the film to be returned to him when United Artists’ copyright expired in November 2023. This, the lawsuit claims, means he had rights to the remake, but he alleges that Amazon ignored the petition and went ahead with the remake, and that the new film shares "key literary elements" with his script.

The WGA (Writers Guild of America) has since awarded Hill the acknowledgement: "Based on the motion picture Road House, Screenplay by David Lee Henry and Hilary Henkin, Story by David Lee Henry." Hill sought to block the remake film's release.

USA. Jake Gyllenhaal in a scene from the (C)Amazon Prime Video new film: Road House (2024) .  Plot: An ex-UFC middleweight fighter ends up working at a rowdy bar in the Florida Keys where things are not as they seem. A remake of the Patrick Swayze 1989 version that took place in Kansas and starred Sam Neil and Ben Gazara Ref: LMK110-J10490-290124 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets. pictures@lmkmedia.com
According to Hill's lawsuit, the writer filed a petition for the copyright of the film to be returned to him in 2023 and he claims Amazon Studios ignored this. (Prime Video)

Hill's lawsuit also claims that Amazon used AI to replicate the voices of actors during the SAG-AFTRA strike so that the film could be finished on time. Amazon have denied these allegations saying that they are "completely without merit".

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson told Variety: "The lawsuit filed by R. Lance Hill regarding Road House today is completely without merit and numerous allegations are categorically false. The film does not use any AI in place of actors’ voices. We look forward to defending ourselves against these claims."


Road House is out now on Prime Video.

Watch the trailer for Road House: