A rowdy 'Road House' premiere, on screen and off, marks the start of SXSW


Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes something like Friday night’s premiere of “Road House” at SXSW. The event had unexpected surprises from start to finish, including but not limited to the movie itself.

The project has been dogged by controversy: Director Doug Liman previously stated publicly that he would not attend the premiere of his remake of the beloved 1989 film starring Patrick Swayze because he was disappointed that Amazon had decided the film would go straight to the Prime Video streaming service without a theatrical release.

More recently the screenwriter of the original film, R. Lance Hill, sued Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and its parent company, Amazon Studios, over copyright issues, including allegations that AI was used to complete the film.

But all that was cast aside for a rollicking event to celebrate a movie with an anarchic energy. Introducing the film, star Jake Gyllenhaal announced that Liman was indeed in the audience, calling him “our incredible director.”

As Gyllenhaal proceeded to call out various cast members in the audience, they were seemingly scattered all over the floor of the theater, shouting out when their names were called. Jessica Williams gave a big “Oh, hell yeah, Jake!” from somewhere toward the back of the room.

Once the lights went down, a card onscreen dedicated the screening to the memory of Swayze, who died in 2009.

The movie is a playful reimagining of the original, with Gyllenhaal as Elwood Dalton, a former MMA fighter haunted by memories of an incident during a fight. Now a drifter scrounging by on an underground fight circuit, Dalton is offered a job by Frankie (Williams) to work as a bouncer at her bar in the Florida Keys. What she doesn’t tell him is that she is being harassed by a local developer and crime boss, Brandt (Billy Magnussen), who wants the land her place is on. Among those coming for them is a crazed henchman, Knox (Conor McGregor), hired by Brandt’s imprisoned father.

The crowd cheered wildly for the fighting scenes in the movie, in particular the final showdown between Gyllenhaal and McGregor. Shot in the Dominican Republic, the film has breathtaking scenery and some genuinely outrageous stunts with boats. Liman imbues the entire film with a gonzo sensibility where anything can happen. Gyllenhaal’s first confrontation with a biker gang, in which he slaps them all rather them punching them before inflicting further violence, captures the spirited tone of the movie.

The film features an “introducing Conor McGregor” title card, as the former UFC champion makes his acting debut in the film. He brings a wild flair to the character, who is meant to be an unpredictable agent of chaos.

Dax Shepard, host of the “Armchair Expert” podcast and avowed fan of the original film, moderated the post-screening Q&A, taking the stage with a long list of questions as he brought out much of the main cast, including Gyllenhaal, McGregor, Williams, Magnussen, Post Malone, Lukas Gage, Daniela Melchior and JD Pardo.

McGregor, who earlier in the evening made his way down the aisle of the theater waving a bottle of alcohol and pouring drinks for people in the reserved-seating section, was, shall we say, very enthusiastic. He took over answering many of the questions, the combination of his thick Irish accent and the venue’s microphones rendering many of his responses unintelligible to the delight of those onstage and in the audience.

Talking about the casting of McGregor, Gyllenhaal said, “We were chasing Conor and hoping that he would do the movie and then all of a sudden we got the call that he was doing it. And you know that feeling when you buy the house you always wanted and you’re like, what the f— did I just do?”

Suddenly Williams injected, “The millennials are like: No, we don’t!”

Laughing, Gyllenhaal continued, “The feeling was like, Oh, my God, this is the most incredible feeling. And then it was like I wanted to run as far as I possibly could.”

“It’s very hard work for sure,” McGregor said. “I thought to myself as I was watching the movie, I’m gonna f— this up.”

As for whether he will do more acting, McGregor said in reference to the film, “I do know, looking at that with the crowd, I have a lot more to give. I feel I have a lot more.”

He added, “Doug Liman is not on the stage and he should be on the stage,” and the audience burst into cheers as Liman stood up in the audience.

As McGregor continued to amusingly hijack the Q&A, Shepard regained control by noting the paper in his hand and saying, “The studio wants these questions asked.”

Having thrown a question to Malone, who appears in an early scene in the movie, the musician answered, “I don’t know what I am doing. I was saying backstage that there is no Autotune for acting. It really is a lot of hard work.”

Shepard asked Gyllenhaal for his favorite movie tough guys and Gyllenhaal said, “Well, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring Mr. Swayze back in the mix. For me as a kid though, it wasn’t at first ‘Road House,’ it was ‘Point Break.’ And subsequently my sister took me to see ‘Dirty Dancing’ like four times. I mean, he was even a tough guy in that.

“But really ultimately I think he was just packed with charisma. So much so that it’s pushed this story all the way even to here. And so I just gotta give it up to Patrick.”

Once the Q&A was finished, as everyone was making their way out of the theater (Liman wearing an outsized black cowboy hat), cries went out for medical assistance from the aisle where the cast was exiting from.

A member of McGregor’s entourage seemed to have passed out. As he was being attended to, the man was revived and was sitting in a chair drinking water as emergency medical services, firefighters and police officers all promptly arrived. McGregor and a small group of people stayed with him, looking to diffuse the situation. There was some chatter of it all being a matter of “hydration.”



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