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Movie Review | Bad Times at the El Royale


Jon Hamm's performance is the best of a great bunch in Bad Times at the El Royale
 

Movie summary: Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe's El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption - before everything goes to hell. (IMDb)


I imagine a lot of people might start noticing a similarity in director Drew Goddard's film if he makes a third film that has an ending that stands out so much from the rest of the film. But while I loved how Cabin in the Woods ended, Bad Times at the El Royale falls more than a little flat.


The movie's so good up to the ending that I think it makes the ending feel worse than it actually is. It's just frustrating that, for a film spending so much time trying to trick the audience and subvert how you think the story is going to go, that it has an incredibly formulaic ending.


And this is with Chris Hemsworth playing against type in a role I'm not going to spoil here. His performance is great, and I'd love to see a more substantial role for him like this, but his character makes decision's that feel more designed to push the plot forward.


Which, in fairness, is a problem the rest of the cast have too - brilliant performances and some fantastic interactions, but ultimately making 'movie decisions' rather than really feeling like actual people we should care about.


The biggest disappointment is Jon Hamm's character, who leaves the film early and never quite recovers. Hamm is the single best thing about the film and, much like Hemsworth, I would love to have seen him in a more expanded role, but it was unfortunately not to be.


I don't want to put down the rest of the cast either, with Cynthia Erivo also shining. Unfortunately, her character is 'paired' with Jeff Bridges', and they're the two whose characters suffer the most from feeling like they're written, rather than behaving in a more natural way.

Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) arrives at hotel in Bad Times at the El Royale

Part of it is the film trying be too clever for its own good, which is a real bugbear of mine. There are too many twists and turns that simply don't have any weight behind them, and the film uses title cards at the start of sequences which initially feels like a clever framing device, but the movie never remains consistent in how they're used.


It's hard to write too much about the story or the characters without spoiling sections, and some of the twists and reveals do work really well - even if they are an exception. I will just say that everyone involved really does their best to bring their characters to life and make them interesting, even if the story doesn't live up their efforts.


The movie looks great too, and has a fantastic soundtrack - both of which just add to the frustration of how the movie ends. There is so, so, so much good here that the weak ending really does stand out in comparison and it makes you wonder if the plot could've dispensed with some of the twists and spent more time giving us a satisfactory send-off.


Bad Times at the El Royale is a really good film up until the finale, where it completely runs out of steam. The movie seems to be so intent on subverting audience expectations that it ultimately proves to be unsatisfying despite some excellent work from the cast.

[7/10]

 
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