Bad Times at the El Royale
By James Davidson
A priest, a vacuum cleaner salesman with a Southern accent, and an aspiring singer walk into a hotel. No, that’s not the beginning of a bad joke; it’s the beginning of the new mystery thriller, “Bad Times at the El Royale.” Seven strangers, each with a mysterious past, meet at a rundown hotel with a mysterious past of its own. The guests quickly discover that not everything is as it seems at the El Royale; there are hidden listening devices and secret passageways with two-way mirrors riddling the old hotel. Throughout their stay at the El Royale, the guests attempt to sort out their own past as well as unravel the hotel’s many mysteries.
When I went to see this movie, I was looking forward to a good mystery movie with a lot of plot twists to keep me guessing. I might have gotten more than I bargained for with this film. While I enjoyed the plot and it was very engaging, it was also very convoluted with almost too much going on. Each character had his/her own complex backstory that came with side characters and mysteries of their own. It was a little overwhelming and a bit confusing. You definitely have to go into this movie and pay attention to every tiny detail to understand the plot.
The good thing about this is that all the characters are very interesting and completely developed very well. I really enjoyed watching the characters change through the movie and evolve into somebody totally different than who they were at the beginning. The characters were very well acted with Jeff Bridges leading an all-star cast that includes Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth. Each actor did an amazing job bringing his or her complicated, very deep character to life on the screen. The one drawback to so many great characters is I felt like they fought each other for control of the movie, making it a lot to take in.
I liked how the filmmakers made the hotel itself into a character. The El Royale is a fictitious hotel located on the border of California and Nevada, and guests can choose which state they would like their room to be located. In its heyday, many famous politicians and celebrities stayed at the famous hotel. As the movie watcher soon finds out, the mysterious owners of the hotel uses secret passages and surveillance gear to spy on and eventually blackmail their famous guests.
While there were many different storylines in the film, they all tied together well at the end. One of the problems I had with the many storylines was that it tended to make the movie drag on slowly in places. While I still found it entertaining, the movie comes in at just under two and a half hours and with so many characters and backstories, it can progress very slowly in some places, which makes it kind of hard to pay attention and follow. I would definitely have to be in the mood to pay attention to a complex movie and to set aside an afternoon to rewatch this.
“Bad Times at the El Royale” contains a lot of strong language, some brief nudity, a good bit of drug content, and a lot of violence and gore, which earns it an R rating. It is definitely not a family movie but is a good movie to go see with friends.
“Bad Times at the El Royale” is a complex thriller with great writing and characters, but progresses slowly and can be hard to follow. I would like to watch this movie again; so, if I am in the mood for a complex movie, I will definitely rent it and set aside an evening. It earns 3.5 out of 5 stars.