Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption… before everything goes to hell. Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson and Cynthia Erivo lead an all-star cast in BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE.
What We Thought:
I liked Bad Times at the El Royale, but like a lot of films the past few years, its runtime is its biggest flaw. It’s way too long and because of that there are scenes/characters that ultimately aren’t necessary by the end of the movie. It’s also going to be a hard film to review without spoiling so much of the story.
I am a huge fan of Director Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods. That took the typical horror trope of kids in the woods dealing with supernatural stuff and flipped it on its head. This film is about a group of strangers coming together at the El Royale hotel. Because of his first film, I was expecting this to flip the script as well and it doesn’t quite do that. I expected all the characters to end up connected in someway, but it really isn’t about that.
The character break down is this: Jon Hamm plays a salesman. Jeff Bridges is a priest. Cynthia Erivo is a singer. Dakota Johnson is a tough chick. There is Miles the hotel worker and Chris Hemsworth is, well I can’t say because his storyline ties into another and again, spoilers. Nick Offerman makes an appearance but that would spoil a secret of a main character. There’s another female character that is more of a major character than others, but that gives away storyline as well. Damn you Drew Goddard and your multi-layered storytelling!
So basically I’ll just list a bunch of the positives. The soundtrack is fantastic. It’s full of old R&B hits from the 1960’s and Deep Purple’s Hush is featured in a scene. I thought the setting, production value and set design were great as well. The hotel is split between California and Nevada and has a gimmick because of it. It has a cool jukebox, old slot machines and vending machines because the film takes place 50 or so years ago. The costuming is really good as well. We all know Jon Hamm can rock a suit, but Erivo’s singer has some fun dresses from the time period and so on. I just liked the entire vibe of the film.
Going back to its runtime, with it being over two hours long, it’s a bit slow in the middle. The beginning introduces the characters and the ending is the chaos, but the middle drags a bit. One of the issues is that something happens to a character pretty early on and not much comes of it. The backstories of the other characters are all broken down and ultimately this character and what happens to them doesn’t really mean much at the end. You could get rid the character completely and still pretty much get to the same ending without much tweaking. That would speed up the middle and the movie overall.
Bad Times at the El Royale isn’t the classic The Cabin in the Woods is, but I liked it overall. I liked more about it than not and it’s something I can see myself watching again to see what I missed the first time. Drew Goddard takes the perviness of Vacancy and mixes it with the layering interconnections of Clue. It has a fantastic cast, soundtrack and production design, I just wish it was a bit more tighter.
Cast & Crew:
- Jeff Bridges
- Cynthia Erivo
- Dakota Johnson
- Jon Hamm
- Chris Hemsworth
- Nick Offerman
- Lewis Pullman
- Cailee Spaeny
- Director Drew Goddard
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