I’ve been wanting to see Bad Times at the El Royale since I saw the trailer. I’m a sucker for films around that time. The decor, the music, the clothes, the cars, I love it all. And you could put Chris Hemsworth on anything and I’ll probably watch it at least once. The trailers gave very little away, too, I had no idea what Bad Times at the El Royale was going to be about. Now I know why, so I’m going to give nothing away either.
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.
I think the thing Bad Times at the El Royale does particularly well is its suspense. Especially at the beginning, we are left with no clue what’s going on but all kinds of possibilities. The plot rapidly thickens but we’re still left with more questions than answers. That’s a tricky thing to pull off, piquing the curiosity while only revealing things in your own time. The dialogue didn’t give anything away except character. We got a sense of who these people were but still could only wonder what they were hiding.
Bad Times at the El Royale had really good casting; I mean REALLY good. I’ve already talked about Chris Hemsworth but every other performance was great as well. Jeff Bridges was alternately menacing and heart-breaking. Jon Hamm is that special kind of smart, quirky scary that he does so well. Lewis Pullman was amazing, his character was so faceted and Lewis Pullman was up for all of it. But the best must have been Cynthia Erivo. Her character was so vulnerable and empathetic. She could react by not reacting, we saw her character hide her emotions from everyone on screen but still fully obvious to us. I found myself completely rooting for her.
I get the feeling that this film went through quite a few drafts before it was ready. Its pacing was a little uneven. Yes, it started out so promising but there was a little bit of a lull in the middle where things wander a bit and nothing much seems to happen. It was like they just weren’t quite ready to get to the second half of Act II. I have no doubt all those scenes were crucial but the plot did end up dragging. There were also a couple things I was curious about from the beginning of the film that they didn’t go back to later, though I also understand why that needed to be.
So is Bad Times at the El Royale worth seeing? Yes, I will be seeing this movie again and possibly buying it. Though I may never stay in a hotel again. For you Hemsworth fans out there, this is arguably his sexiest movie. (He doesn’t really wear a shirt in this movie at all. Not at all. Thank you Drew Goddard) Also, I’m pretty sure there’s some symbolism that I’ll come across that wasn’t obvious the first time.