A vacuum salesman, a singer, and a priest all walk in a hotel, but it’s not the beginning of a bad joke. It’s the beginning of Bad Times at the El Royale.
Set in the late 1960’s, the El Royale is a seedy, run-down hotel straddling the state line between “sunny California”, and Nevada’s land of “hope and opportunity”. When seven strangers converge on the hotel, slowly each of their secrets is revealed, culminating in a bloody quest for personal redemption.
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Bad Times at the El Royale is unusual, to say the least. In some ways, it’s clever – blending references to Hoover’s FBI, the Vietnam War, and Charles Manson within the subplots of seven different characters. Then confusing, making us wonder when its poster boy Chris Hemsworth is going to show up, and why everyone’s talking about sin.
Its theme of redemption is worth pondering, but between the backstories and nostalgia, it’s hard to see what Bad Times at the El Royale is driving at. There are some worthwhile discussions around how we see God, and our desire for forgiveness, but they play out more like a puzzling Facebook status than anything substantial. The best line comes from the priest to the hotel clerk when he asks, “If you’re so worried about your soul, why were you doing the wrong thing in the first place?”
There are some stand out moments, with Darlene Sweet’s (Cynthia Erivo’s) singing a highlight, but for violence and adult themes alone Bad Times at the El Royale can easily be skipped.
Save yourself 2hrs 20min and go see Thor in something else.
Bad Times at the El Royale is in cinemas now
Release Date: 11/10/2018
Running Time: 141 mins
Director: Drew Goddard
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Chris Hemsworth