Film Review: Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Stars: Jeff BridgesCynthia ErivoDakota JohnsonJon HammChris HemsworthCailee SpaenyLewis Pullman.

Director: Drew Goddard

The plot:

The El Royale motel is situated on the California/Nevada state borderline and as such you can be in either state depending on which room you take.  On an, otherwise, quiet but stormy night seven individuals cross paths at the El Royale which leads to double-crossing and blood being spilled.  Those individuals include a priest, a backing singer, a vacuum salesman and the concierge of the motel itself and, of course, the motel carries its own secrets which lead to dire consequences for some of its guests.


The cast:

I suppose you would be right in saying that this was something of an ensemble piece.  Jeff Bridges stars as the aging priest and gives a satisfactory performance, no less than you would expect but certainly not up there with his best.  Jon Hamm arrives as our overly confident vacuum salesman intent on taking the honeymoon suite.  Like with Bridges, Hamm delivers a competent output without hitting any real highs.  Dakota Johnson, on the other hand, is one of the film’s more lively characters and does demand more of the viewers’ attention.  A particularly sassy, no-nonsense character trying to free her sister from the incoming Billy Lee, played by Chris Hemsworth.


Hemsworth arrives on-screen sometime into the film and whilst he does present as quite the mysterious and charismatic addition to proceedings it’s just a little too late to really set things alight.  Both Lewis Pullman and Cailee Spaeny are worthy of positive mentions as their characters actually provided something of interest, the darker side of their involvement actually demanded and should have been given more time which was perhaps wasted on Cynthia Erivo’s  character.  Erivo arrived as a backing singer with dreams of something bigger but I failed to see what this player actually brought to the table in terms of an impact on the big picture.  That’s not to suggest Erivo was poor, she wasn’t, just that the character seemed surplus to requirements.


The movie:

Running at the best part of a one hundred and forty minutes fails to achieve any of what I believed to be its main goals. The structure of the film, being told from the different back stories of each occupant of the motel’s rooms or nearby locations is a not unfamiliar approach but each individual story is so drawn out and overly long that it really hits home that this film is much longer than it needs to be.  I like a good long film but if you’re going to have a run time such as this you need to ensure that you either have an exceptional script or events of real significance to ensure the viewer is kept interested, the El Royale had neither.  It’s no secret that it’s something of an homage to the noir genre but it, sadly, just gets really boring at points and despite the quality of the cast they’re unable to liven things up to really entertain the viewer or build any kind of lasting interest in the characters.  Had the film have been condensed into a shorter a run the gaps between interesting developments would not have seemed so huge and would have made for a much more intense and compact set of events which may have led the audience to actually care how things concluded.  A lot of the humour fell flat with my fellow viewers of which there was a high number on release day.  This had so much promise but failed to live up to that promise.

The Verdict 2/5 stars – Certainly not good times at the El Royale.

Bad Times at the El Royale on IMDb

Bad Times at the El Royale Official Website


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