'Bad Times at the El Royale' (2018) Movie Review

Updated on December 24, 2018
John Plocar profile image

I was a singing, vacuum selling, concierge priest that believed in peace and love once, man. It was a phase.

Good Times At The El Royale For Me

Bad Times at the El Royale was one of my most anticipated movies for this year after I had stumbled across the first trailer for it some months ago. From the writer and director of Cabin in the Woods, starring Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges and Chris Hemsworth in an ultra-vibrant setting of the 1960s with a kicking soundtrack and a seemingly cool mystery thriller plot; I was immediately on board. And now after seeing the flick, it was a pretty good time. I had a lot of fun with this movie and the ride that it took me on.

The film is set in 1969 when a small group of strangers so happen to check into a somewhat rundown hotel by the name of the El Royale. The cast includes Jeff Bridges as the priest, Cynthia Erivo as the up and coming singer Darlene, Dakota Johnson as a mysterious hippy girl, and Jon Hamm as a vacuum salesman. From there, certain things come to light about each individual’s past and some motives holding possible diabolical incentives. And that’s all I really care to share about the film because part of the fun with this movie is slowly discovering what all is going on with these people and where it all leads by the end of it. Don’t mistake this for something that goes to any outrageous lengths as Cabin in the Woods, but it does have enough cool turns in it that I don’t really care to spoil here.

Drew Goddard (writer/director) brings a very stylish approach to the film that drew me into this world; the cinematography is stunning, the structure of the film adopts a Tarantinio-esque quality to it, the acting is absorbing, the dialog was very witty, the soundtrack was fantastic and perfectly interjected into the scenes, and the story line kept me guessing as to where it was going until the very end. There would be specific plot threads that would give the impression of going one way and then in an instant the whole premise has practically changed for it. And I mean that in a good way because it kept the narrative fairly unpredictable as well as leaving me guessing as to who may or may not make it by the end of the film, which I really enjoyed about the movie.

The movie’s tone is pretty fun with how it plays around inside of its genre, certain plot lines would start off as lighthearted fun to emotionally dramatic to extremely intense and it flowed rather naturally. Although once things really kick into gear with the plot and things are starting to build up there is a lot of intense sequences to be found here. The best part about the suspense is some of the dark humor that would result from it; with the smart writing and excellent acting, the comedy never interrupts the tone set or causes any sort of whiplash. Some movies when walking this thin line of suspenseful and humorous the tone can feel cluttered or perplexing, but this movie balances it all well.

Chris Hemsworth wants you in his hippy cult!
Chris Hemsworth wants you in his hippy cult!

Out of the entire cast I would have to say that my favorite character/actor belongs to Chris Hemsworth as this crazy, hippy cult leader and he was clearly having a great time playing this role. Everyone else does a swell job as well, but Hemsworth practically had me glue my eyes directly to the screen because of how much fun he was having in every single one of his scenes. His performance was funny one minute then the next intimidating, he is always charismatic as hell in every frame he’s in, and the physical performance that he gives is pretty entertaining all on its own. I thought he was terrific in this movie, I only wish he was in it more but he was in a pretty decent chunk so I can’t complain.

Long Times At The El Royale

I want to reiterate that this is a very good movie and totally worth checking out! However the movie isn’t without its fault, admittedly minor faults, but faults all the same. The biggest one being that the movie is too long, running close to two and a half hours when this could have easily been cut down by 20 minutes. Not that there’s necessarily whole scenes that should have been cut, but rather several scenes and sequences that should have been heavily trimmed. There are just certain scenes that run way too long and make the film drag rather drastically at times. Not that I was ever sitting there bored by any means, but I would occasionally become restless as a scene would span on for ten minutes or so before finally moving onto the next thing and that really hurt the pacing of the story for me. There’s no need for this movie to run at two hours and twenty minutes, but if someone were to watch this at home and they were to become somewhat restless then it would be easy to find a distraction for a couple of minutes until the movie picks back up again. Again, nothing majorly wrong but enough to notice.

Another thing that bother me was that because of the type of narrative structure that this film takes, there are several plot threads that focus on every character of this movie. Which is fine, but unfortunately there are some plot threads that end up going nowhere or others would allude to some sort of secret that never gets explained which did kind of irk me slightly. Not to the extent of angering me, but it did make me wonder as to why they were in the movie at all. Granted some of those plot threads did add to the unpredictability, but there were others that made no impact to the story at all so they were relatively pointless.

One more thing involves a spoiler so I’m going to do my best to dance around the topic without giving away too much, hopefully. The way that Chris Hemsworth’s character’s story line was wrapped up I found to be underwhelming and anticlimactic. I wanted more and I thought that it deserved more since Hemsworth was so great in the role and to see it meet such an abrupt end also bugged me a little. Again, it wasn’t a huge enough issue that makes the movie bad at all. Just a small blemish on an otherwise entertaining flick.

The things they do on the television today!
The things they do on the television today!

Will You Check In?

Long story short, I had a pretty fun time with this movie. Aside from a few editing choices that could have been made, this is a solid sit. If you’re bored this is a good movie to pop on and have a cool watch with. The plot lines are unpredictable, the characters are interesting and entertaining, the 60’s set design is gorgeous and the soundtrack era is a blast to listen to, there are terrifically funny moments as well as a few intense ones that come right around the corner. The narrative structure itself is rather cool in how it is a non-linear story. The acting is strong from everyone, there isn’t a weak link to be seen in that department at all. I’d say it’s worth a watch, if this seems like your cup of tea then spending a few bucks to rent this would probably be satisfactory. Pop it in, sit back and enjoy your time at the El Royale!

Bad Times at the El Royale - Trailer

Bad Times at the El Royale on Amazon Video Prime

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    © 2018 John Plocar

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