HOLLYWOOD—When it comes to crafting a mystery/thriller it’s important to have all the right elements: interesting characters, a fun narrative and twists along the way. The movie “Bad Times at the El Royale” has most of those elements, but they don’t all mesh in sync to deliver the type of movie that you expect. The movie has a stellar cast including Oscar winner Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman and Chris Hemsworth.
The premise is presented that each of our core characters are NOT who they portray themselves to be, that is typical of any great thriller. Here’s the problem, some of the characters are so one-sided or flat in terms of character development, the movie would work 10x better if they weren’t part of the narrative. I mean Hemsworth as a cult-leader, who comes and goes in the oddest ways, was a waste of the actor and brought absolutely nothing to the movie whatsoever.
I guess you have the mediating storyline involving Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), who was a former member of Billy Lee’s (Chris Hemsworth) organization. The El Royale is a hotel that holds a deep dark secret, there is money hidden here, and everyone is looking to locate those funds. If we’re talking about all the characters in this movie the two standouts are Priest Donald O’Kelly (Jeff Bridges) and singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo); the two just mesh well, and as Darlene learns more about O’Kelly the notion of trust becomes a big issue between the two.
In most mysteries you tend to have a protagonist, with that movie that is not the case because everyone‘s true intent is not immediately revealed, which makes for an compelling narrative, if only you cared about the characters. Hamm’s character seems like a play on his somewhat dark role in the action-flick “Baby Driver,” Johnson gives off Uma Thurman vibes from “Kill Bill” without the caliber and Pullman portrays a precocious character, whose secret never fully comes to fruition.
If you’re going to tease secrets, the payoff of the reveal has to be worth it America, we don’t get this with the “Bad Times at the El Royale.” The build up to the climax is quite lackluster to say the least and never delivers the punch of a great mystery like “The Usual Suspects.” Drew Goddard who wrote and directed the flick fails to capture the fun of his horror thriller “The Cabin in the Woods.”
“Bad Times at the El Royale” is not a terrible movie; it misses the mark with character development and delivery when it comes to the big reveal. I expected much more from the movie that has promise. Mediocre elements don’t help this movie standout from the bunch, especially when you’re teasing a movie to be bigger than what it actually is.