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Bad Times at El Royale Review - Shocking, Resonating, Explosive

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Bad Times at El Royale, from Twentieth Century Fox, presents a story of deception, illusion, redemption and rescue as seven strangers, each with a deadly secret, are forced into a kill or be killed, life or death final struggle.

Directed and written by Drew Goddard, Bad Times at El Royale stars Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, Lewis Pullman, Cynthia Erivo, Cailee Spaeny as Rose aka Boots.

Bad Times at El Royale begins on a dark stormy night, drenching rain, and a man carrying two bags, a tool kit and a red bag, begins to deconstruct the hotel room, pulling the bed apart, rolling up the carpets, pulling up floor boards, and then dropping the red bag into the floor he reassembles the room in its exactness. He answers the door and before the two men begin a conversation, he is shot.


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The next scene at the El Royale is on a fairer day. In the parking lot of this Lake Tahoe hotel, with two of our characters, Father Daniel Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges and Darlene Sweet, played by Cynthia Erivo, each driving automobiles that have the look and feel of early 1960’s.

Pausing for a moment as each is standing on a different side of the bright red line, that we find out is the state border, as the El Royale straddles Nevada and California. Exchanging pleasantries, Father Flynn and Ms. Sweet, who is carrying her own bedrolls, talk in jest about the weather in Nevada as opposed to California.

Making their way into the lobby, the met up with Laramie Seymour Sullivan, played by Jon Hamm, who presents himself quite convincingly as a vacuum salesman. Making himself at home, as the concierge/hotel clerk isn’t answer the bell call, he explains to both Father Flynn and Ms. Sweet his desire has always been to stay in the Honeymoon suite and tonight seems to be the lucky night as no one has dragged themselves out to this establishment since they lost their gaming license as the El Royale was once a big deal that attracted Hollywood’s biggest talent.

Now, no license no clientele. Finally the hotel clerk shows up, disheveled. His name tag reads Miles, and in a flourish of a moment he explains the history of the El Royale. A slight man, shy, a little jittery, Miles begins the check in process and just then a Ford Mercury Cougar comes squealing into the parking lot.

A young woman, and her clothing sets the time frame as her long fringe vest, bell bottom jeans, platform shoes and long hair, brings us to the mid-1960’s. Explaining she needs a room, she pays the eight dollars and is told to sign in, and her unique signature brings us into the late 1960’s. Clearly, a modern women, we find out her name is Emily Summerspring, played by Dakota Johnson.

Soon all four guests were in their respective rooms, Laramie the traveling salesman makes a call home, and his southern accent is gone and as we see he begins to pull wiretapping microphones out of the phone and soon we see he has pulled nearly 20 mini-cameras and audio recorders out of the honeymoon suite.

At this point a press conference with President Nixon discussing the possibility of a ceasefire in the Vietnam War, which was interrupted by a news bulletin of horrific Malibu murders where a prominent doctor and his wife were viciously murdered and found on the grounds of the palatial estate.

Now we know the days, times, seasons and events that have passed. We move into the second act of Bad Times at El Royale, and meet our characters as the backstories of each are presented.

Bad Times at El Royale is a very good film. A well written story, taken from the headlines of a bygone era nearly a half a century ago, bringing a new take on events that have never really left the psyche of Americans.

Chris Hemsworth delivers a much talked about performance as Billy Lee, a mesmerizing cult leader who travels to the El Royale to take back what he believes is his property.

Dakota Johnson also delivered a solid performance and echoed her infamous signature in the film’s beginning to any detractors. Cailee Spaeny, whom is a relative unknown carried her own and so much more. She is a up and coming force. Lewis Pullman also delivers a shocking transformation.

The entire cast, veterans, seasoned and relatively newcomers all, across the board, upped the game and brought credible, vulnerable acting. Each of the main characters have pivotal moments that cause them to reach deep to bring more than simply expectation.

Unabashedly, God and the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, were mentioned, which surprised me as I didn’t expect God to make such a mainstream entrance. Although I’ve noticed more films dealing seriously with religions, It didn’t feel uncomfortable, and seemed right for the time, seasons and event. For those who need absolution and believe a priest can forgive sin, even a fake one will do. The dialogue in these moments were very genuine and heartfelt.

As there is a deep evil presented, conversely good or God needs also to be presented. Few will survive the night of carnage to see the morning sun peak over the mountains at this Lake Tahoe Lodge, for those who do it will change their lives forever.


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Bad Times at El Royale resonates. A gripping, explosive, riveting film. It opens October 12, 2018. This film will be talked about. See it.

 

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