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Westside Steve

Bad night at the El Royale review

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Bad Times at the El Royale
20th Century Fox
R.                          141 min

Okay gang often I implore you to stop reading go see the movie and then come back and see if you agree with me. I’m always serious but this time even more so! There are so many crazy twists and turns and this flick that if I told you a few it would probably be too confusing to consider and if I spill all the beans it will take away a huge amount of fun that you will have if you take my advice and go see BAD TIMES at the EL ROYALE. Frankly I had no idea what to expect but I was attracted to this film by a few things. First of all the previews looked pretty cool kind of a seedy period piece somewhere around the sixties or early seventies. It looked like one of those weird things that Joel and Ethan Coen might come up with. And I was intrigued by the cast. Come on folks who doesn’t love Jeff Bridges? I also like Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth a lot. The El Royale itself is a once thriving and eclectic hotel situated directly on the border of California and Nevada that has unfortunately fallen upon hard times, especially since the Nevada side lost its Gambling License. But don’t worry what it lacks in state-of-the-art lodging it more than makes up for in quirks and mystery. Some of the idiosyncrasies  are meant to come together  as the mystery unfolds  and some, I believe,  are put in  just  for effect .  For example  it costs a dollar more to stay on the California side .  Why?  Who knows. Keeping the aforementioned being spilling to a minimum, the blood devices to be concerned with include crime, murder, blackmail and a religious cult. This seemingly unrelated set of circumstances has brought an equally unrelated set of participants forced into  a pretty wild story
We open with a flashback (there are a lot of those so pay attention) of a stranger painstakingly taking apart the floor of one of the rooms and placing something under the floorboards then restoring everything. (PS there’s no happy ending for this random guy.) Nearly a decade later the main characters begin to assemble at the El Royale. There’s a traveling vacuum cleaner salesman (Hamm) who’s probably not what he appears to be.  There’s an elderly priest (Bridges) who seems a little bit rougher and tougher than your average man of the cloth. The desk clerk (Lewis Pullman) who is also the concierge, maid, chef and performs every other job around the hotel. Something in his past  compels him  to seek absolution  from the priest . The session vocalist (Cynthia Erivo) who’s employed by the recording studio to sing the background parts on pop records. By the way she has to put up with entirely too much crap from the producers. The dangerous hippie girl (Dakota Johnson) and her equally dangerous charge (Cailee Spaeny), who may well be her accomplice. Finally a cult leader (Hemsworth) in the mold of Charles Manson.
Don’t worry too much about those descriptions because as I say not everyone is really who they appear to be. The story unfolds and all the pieces and parts for each of these characters begins to come into focus as the film comes together for an explosive climax. Surreal and quirky but definitely entertaining, complex and engrossing.

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