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Victoria Alexander reviews BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

Written by: Victoria Alexander | October 5th, 2018

Film Poster: Bad Times At The El Royale
Film Poster: Bad Times At The El Royale

A slow start, too many songs, but it has Hemsworth at his sexiest.

Just before a terrible rainstorm, four guests sign in at the El Royale, which is situated with half of the hotel in California and the other half in Nevada.

Its 1969 and the garish colors and low-slung ceilings of Rat Pack nirvana are faithfully reproduced.

Unfortunately, the first 15 minutes featuring Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), a vacuum salesman, aggressively dominates the hotel’s reception area. What the hell is his problem? The tedium is finally relieved when the other guests arrive. The other guests are Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), a hippie who signs the register as “fuck you”, Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a dementia-riddled cleric, and Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), a backup singer on her way to a solo gig in Reno. They are all hiding secrets and somehow have found their way to the El Royale.

The hotel manager is Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman), a squirrely character upset with the priest’s stay. He tells Father Flynn this is no place for him. He’s got a lot on his mind and he’s looking to confess.

We venture into each room and into the lives of the guests. When Sullivan starts nosing around, the true purpose of the El Royale is revealed. Could this be a mob hotel where guests are given prime privacy to do whatever they please?

Film Image: Bad Times At The El Royale
Film Image: Bad Times At The El Royale

Each guest is strongly defined and eventually show off their true natures. But it is the arrival of Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) and his crew really ups the sadistic violence.

I don’t know why Jon Hamm did not fight to keep MAD MEN alive. He was one of the sexiest men on TV. Now, his roles since the end of MAD MEN have been mediocre, at best. He hasn’t been able to find a role that showcases him as a masculine, virile movie star. Jon, not girls but women need you at your sans-underwear finest!

Well, let’s hope Hamm has MAD MEN syndication money.

Hemsworth does a sexy dance and takes over the movie. He’s Goddard’s flame thrower and its okay that he lets loose and chews up the scenery You can’t be a cult leader without being an obnoxious blowhard.

I loved Drew Goddard’s THE CABIN IN THE WOODS and it is always great to see an actor replay his director who gave him his first starring role. Obviously BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE did not pay Hemsworth THOR money, or even STAR TREK money. (Considering that Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pine have quit the upcoming STAR TREK 4 in a dispute over pay. The actors believe they’re being forced to take pay cuts on existing deals after 2016’s STAR TREK BEYOND did not perform as well as expected. Will the studio go ahead and recast the roles or renegotiate the actor’s deals?)

With the film’s 2 hours 21 minutes length, you walk away saying, why so many complete songs sung by Erivo? Yes, Erivo can sing, but after the third or fourth long song, you start to question the wisdom of it, in a film with so many twists and plot points that could have been tighten with less a cappella singing.

Goddard’s hotel is a main character and it is a fantastic rendering of the garish era conceptualized by cinematographer Seamus McGarvey and production design by Martin Whist.


Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and answers every email at For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to: Victoria Alexander contributes to Films in Review (, Film Festival Today ( and Las Vegas Informer (

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