Movie Review – Bad Times At The El Royale

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Bad Times At The El Royale – A movie of diminishing returns. El Royale is one of those films where the setup is far better than the payoff. It is one of those features where you will find yourself entertained in spots but wonder what was the point of taking the journey in the first place. In other words, an underwhelming mixed bag, which is a shame because the premise of the movie is quite good. Various odd characters converge at seedy Tahoe motel in 1969 which is situated on the California – Nevada border. In fact, the motel is designed so that the state border runs right through the center of the building so you can choose to stay in either the Cali side or the Nevada side. Getting a room at the El Royale are an R&B singer (Cynthia Erivo), a priest with early onset Alzheimer’s (Jeff Bridges), a short fused hippie femme fatale (Dakota Johnson) and a fast talking appliance salesman (Jon Hamm). They are taken care of by a junkie concierge (Lewis Pullman) who seems reluctant to have any guests at his establishment. Of course, none of the characters are who they say they are and each has a different motive for being at the El Royale. Even the motel itself has its sinister secrets. I won’t spoil any of the twists but let’s just say the film involves government surveillance, stolen armed robbery money, a Charles Manson-like flower cult, Motown, a kidnapped woman and lots of guns, knives and fire. Writer and director Drew Goddard, who gave us the absolutely insane comedic-horror film “The Cabin In The Woods” decides to tackle the neo-noir genre this time around, and although the tone is right, there’s something off kilter about the entire proceedings and not in a good way. Goddard appears to want to explore the degrees of good and evil that men (and women) have the propensity to carry out as well as how sin decent necessarily define a soul. Profound yes, but in this Tarantino-esque setup, the message is muddled amidst the mayhem. The pulpy first half of the production is more fun as you try to figure out what’s going on, who each character really is and process the sudden jolts of violence and humor that appear. The second half follows through to a crazy, but logical conclusion (there’s no all out insanity like there was in Cabin) and it doesn’t feel fulfilling in the slightest. Ultimately, you’ll enjoy the ride for a bit, but you’ll leave the theater a bit hollow.

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