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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

October 18, 2018


Director: Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman

This movie had some serious potential with an electric cast in a Quentin Tarantino stylized mystery written and directed by Drew Goddard, a dude mostly known for writing and directing the unique and awesome horror flick The Cabin in the Woods and for creating “Daredevil”, easily the best Marvel series on Netflix.

I wanted to like it so much. All the ingredients for an awesome movie were there and for the first third of the movie, I was enthralled with the snappy dialogue and the intrigue surrounding all the mysterious visitors of Lake Tahoe’s El Royale hotel, which is literally split in half by the border of California and Nevada. I’ve thought about the film quite a bit and it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but I can say with certainty that the pacing was brutal at times. No one is going to criticize this movie for lack of character development, as each individual gets back story and plenty of screen time, but Bad Times at the El Royale has a tendency to reset just as things are getting really interesting. For instance, like many Tarantino films before, the movie is told in chapters and just as a chapter climaxes and something shocking happens, the scene cuts and we move on to another chapter and new point of view. Some might enjoy the slow burn of building back up to that climatic moment, but if I had to guess what made the pacing of the movie a bit excruciating it would be this tendency.

The cast is mostly great. Jeff Bridges is always very good and I enjoyed Jon Hamm also. Although I have zero interest in the 50 Shades of Grey series, Dakota Johnson has been captivating in other roles, particularly A Bigger Splash, and she is good again here. Chris Hemsworth plays against type as Billy Lee, a cult leader and possible pedophile. He’s very loose in the role, dancing, smoking cigarettes, and really seeming to enjoy doing something different. It’s a stark contrast to the stiff (although sometimes funny) Thor we’ve been watching him play for the past decade. He’s definitely villainous in this movie, but I enjoyed his screen presence.

Another point where I feel the film suffers is when Cynthia Erivo’s character is the focus. She’s an aspiring songstress that is headed to Reno for a small gig singing in a Keno lounge. I think Erivo’s acting is plenty good, but she sings at least four different songs in the film and the movie comes to a screeching halt whenever this happens. The songs are all slow, long and not particularly interesting and her performances aren’t nearly captivating enough to justify it. I know I reached a point where if I had to listen to her sing again, I was going to literally groan in agony.

Bad Times at the El Royale has some things working for it, particularly strong performances, cool and shocking moments, and plenty of intrigue, but pacing really hurts the overall enjoyment and the eventual revelations are a bit uninspired. It’s a Quentin Tarantino impression that will just make you wonder how much better it would have been if it was actually a QT film.

Replay Value: It’s not a must rewatch, but I could maybe do it again some day.

Sequel Potential: It wouldn’t make much sense to do one.

Oscar Potential: I’m going to say none.

Dina Meter: If this movie bored me at times, I’m sure it would bore Dina to death. I would not suggest that she needs to watch it.

5/10 (Decent)

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