Seven strangers, each with their own secrets, pasts and desires meet at a run-down hotel in Lake Tahoe on the Nevada/California borderline. Over the course of a fateful night, they all get one last shot at redemption before everything goes wrong.
Isolated locations and a set of strangers randomly concurring always breeds chaos, The Hateful Eight, Identity etc all have their isolation. Metaphorical weather incidents set the stage, causes prolonged stays and the audience simply sits back and awaits the oncoming storm. So in many ways Bad Times at the El Royale provides nothing new, we’ve seen this formula before. Creepy motels, a solitary, mildly creepy concierge shocked to suddenly find himself swamped with custom. A priest (Jeff Bridges), a salesman (Jon Hamm), lounge singer (Cynthia Erivo) and hippy (Dakota Johnson) meander into a hotel lobby and the mechanism begins to click into motion.
Bad Times at the El Royale did however feel fresh, perhaps it was the element of espionage, the unconfirmed hotel ownership, the fluctuating crosses and double crosses that provided moments of genuine shock in the room or perhaps because I’ve felt so underserved by recent cinema trips that I found myself more and more enraptured by this film.
By the time Chris Hemsworth and his sopping wet, hypnotic torso (pictured above) traversed the hotel car park I had become so enamoured with the clever arrangement of story, interesting characters, toe tapping Motown inflected soundtrack and vaguely noir aesthetic that the appearance of Hemsworth as a odd religious cult leader only served to further extend my joy.
While I may wax lyrical and repeat agin my enjoyment of this film, I must also confess that the final act is long and unnecessarily so in places. Certainly, the ends could have been tied up a little quicker and with more ease, but without this I may not have been granted the sight of a priestly Jeff Bridges offering grace, forgiveness and absolution and for that I will forgive many a cinematic sin.
Bad Times at the El Royale is on general release from 12th October.