Bad Times at the El Royale

Hi, do you like movies? Because I like movies. And I have a movie that includes:

  • Beautiful set design and costuming
  • Impeccable fight scenes
  • Subtle social critique set in the late 60s
  • Flawed but likable men AND women characters
  • A phenomenal opening sequence that reads like a theatre play
  • A friendship between and adult man and an adult woman that begins with one of them bashing the other one in the head with a wine bottle

Okay, are you ready?

Chris Hemsworth stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYAL. Photo Credit: Kimberley French.

This movie has been on my radar for about a year probably, ever since I found out that Chris Hemsworth was in it. Yes, Chris Hemsworth is in the movie, playing a creepy cult leader who is probably a pedophile, as they tend to be. Yes, he’s perfect. But he’s not the best part of the film, or even close honestly. What I like best about this movie is that it is a film directed in the style of Tarantino or Guy Ritchie, but it’s remarkably diverse and progressive. I’ve always loved the style of films like Snatch or Seven Psychopaths, but I also feel sort of uncomfortable loving them. Far too often, there’s no place in that film for me. Women are the objects of sexual attraction or mutilation or both, if they appear at all. Even Kill Bill, featuring Uma Thurman kicking ass, has a terrible approach to sexual assault and partner violence that leaves me queasy.

As a fan of the artsy strange action films like these, I’ve found solace in works like Knives Out, but while I love that film and everything by Rian Johnson, it doesn’t quite seem to scratch the itch. There aren’t enough idiots with guns I guess. Hotel Artemis came close, and that’s another favorite, but Bad Times at the El Royale honestly blew it out of the water. This movie features some big names, including Hemsworth, Jeff Bridges, and Nick Offerman. It also features some lesser-known actors, including Cynthia Erivo, playing Darlene Sweet, the first character we officially meet. Erivo does an amazing job in this film playing the only person who just wants a good night’s sleep in the whole hotel. She’s our entry into the film, even if she has her own secrets.

None of the characters in this movie are who they seem at first glance, except perhaps Hemsworth as Billy Dee, who exists largely as a foil for everyone else’s intentions. But through flashbacks and cut scenes that do nothing to dispel the narrative tension, we soon learn that everyone at the El Royale, and even the hotel itself, is more than they appear to be. Really, it’s just bad luck they’re all there when they are. Or maybe it’s good luck, because despite this movie’s high body count I found the ending to ultimately be a kind one.

Goodness knows we could all use a little kindness these days, even with all the bad in between.

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