After the humorous horror satire “The Cabin in the Woods” and the great mystery surrounding Drew Goddard’s latest project BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE expectations were high. Ultimately, the stylish thriller is just a well-intentioned Tarantino homage. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
On a rainy night in the late 1960s, seven strangers (Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pullman, Cailee Spaeny and Chris Hemsworth), each with a dark secret, meet at the El Royale on Lake Tahoe. The run-down hotel has a dark past that some people seem to know about. And the fact that it was built right on the border between Nevada and California is just one of countless architectural secrets that make the wicked establishment so special. Over the course of a single fateful night, everyone is given one last chance at redemption… before everything goes to hell.
Movie explanation of the ending
The hotel “El Royale” at the center of Drew Goddard’s latest production is real. Under the name Cal Neva Resort, it once belonged to none other than vocal prodigy Frank Sinatra, who ran the establishment built right on the border between Nevade and California. It inspired “The Cabin in the Woods” mastermind to create a new work that he kept secret from outsiders for many years. Even prospective buyers were only allowed to borrow tablet PCs for the negotiations in order to get an impression of the material, which they then had to return. Nobody should use Goddard’s ideas, even if after looking at the finished project it all seems as if they were simply dealing with very clever PR. Without expecting a similar twist fireworks display from Goddard as the brilliant horror satire was, the secrecy surrounding “Bad Times At The El Royale” is simply much ado about nothing. Of course, a successful film today doesn’t necessarily need one or more spectacular twists, perhaps we’re even a little spoiled these days by the idea that a story has to be completely turned inside out at the end in order to surprise and delight us. What has to be said, however, is that the escapades in “El Royale” can at least deliver something in terms of narrative, but Drew Goddard and his team are doing their film a disservice with their chosen narrative form. “Bad Times At The El Royale” turns out to be a sleeping pill.
Jon Hamm plays the obscure vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan.
At first glance, one would assume that “Bad Times at The El Royale” is based on a novel. This is not just because Drew Goddard, who not only directed “The Cabin in the Woods” but also wrote the screenplays for blockbusters like “The Martian” and “World War Z,” divides his film into individual chapters (one of several parallels between “El Royale” and the works of Tarantino, to which Goddard is clearly bowing here), but also because his film takes on an almost literary form. Unfortunately, that is the biggest point of criticism apart from the fact that the many references to the politics of the 1970s (Watergate, the Vietnam War, Manson…) are stuck in the beginning. Goddard’s film simply drags on too long in many places. The title of the chapter, which is named either after one of the rooms or one of the characters, is displayed and then Goddard presents us in great detail what there is to know about the person in the center – and unfortunately there is a lot of it trifles. In addition, the focus is on one, maximum two people per chapter. But “Bad Times At The El Royale” only really hits its stride when the characters interact with each other – this is also how conceptually similar films like “The Hateful 8” develop their appeal. True to form, this only happens very slowly from the second half onwards. Beforehand, the individual chapters depend heavily on the characters they focus on and the actors who embody them. And as is often the case with episodic films, the differences in quality are serious at this point.
For a long time, one of the highlights of the surprisingly serious “Bad Times at the El Royale” was anything involving Jon Hamm (“Catch Me!”) has to do. The two-time Golden Globe winner (2008 and 2016 for his role in the TV series “Mad Men”) plays here with an attitude that is both naive and completely impenetrable, from which everything and yet nothing can be read. Hamm’s character, the clumsy vacuum cleaner salesman, could actually be a murderer, or the first victim in a series of unfortunate events. The exact opposite is embodied by Jeff Bridges, who once again mumbles to himself (“Hell or High Water”). You can understand what his shady priest figure is all about even without having seen the trailer that anticipates this “twist”. After all, the soul singer Darlene, who will soon be seen in Steve McQueen’s “Widows” as Cynthia Erivo, reacts anything but surprised, so the question arises as to whether this supposed revelation was even intended as such. The two of them are also the ones who get to do one of the strongest film scenes ever together: When the two of them use their very special skills to ensure that their true plans do not come to light on this mysterious night, Drew Goddard uses all of his skills as different ones Layers and narrative perspectives from a director who is very familiar and we would have loved to see more of them. It’s extremely contrived and anything but realistic, but other gimmicks of this kind would have fit perfectly into this high-concept film, especially since the (attempted) coolness beats logic several times anyway.
Chris Hemsworth is allowed to run theatrically through a field of flowers in his role of Charles Manson cross-section Billy Lee.
The rest of the cast either performs at the usual level (“Fifty Shades of Grey” star Dakota Johnson simply has too few scenes to get more out of her pretty smart crook role), or disappoints. Chris “Thor” Not only does Hemsworth have to deal with some pretty well-worn clichés (keyword: flower meadow) and constantly run around topless, his Charles Manson cross-section Billy Lee, who is completely full of clichés, remains far too superficial to be able to appreciate Hemsworth’s potential of a character actor could be convincing. Lewis Pullman (“The Strangers 2: Sacrificial Night”) However, it also clings too tightly to the simple-minded role of the hotel concierge, who suddenly has to undergo an outrageous change of heart in the last third. In keeping with the genre, this would be forgivable if Drew Goddard didn’t neglect to force it into the final act, so that it also disperses the atmosphere, which becomes increasingly thick towards the end. Both Hemsworth and Pullman form the acting and narrative lowlight of the film. Ultimately, the real main role is played by the eponymous “El Royale”. It’s not just the line that runs straight through the hotel and over the parking lot that gives the hotel something surreal by subconsciously dividing the property into two different halves (which Miles obediently repeats whenever a new guest wants to check in). The furnishings, the large neon sign at the entrance, which is particularly effective in the pouring rain, and one or two architectural surprises make the El Royale at least as obscure a protagonist as its short-term residents – if not the most exciting .
Conclusion: Not really funny, not really exciting, but pretty long-winded and anything but surprising – the at least very chic-looking “Bad Times At The El Royale” is a bitter disappointment considering the actually exciting starting point.
“Bad Times At The El Royale” can be seen in USA cinemas from October 11th.