Not quite so Bad Times at the El Royale

Written By Max McAuley, For The Globe

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I went into “Bad Times at the El Royale” with high hopes. In seeing the commercials, I was reminded of Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” or even “Murder on the Orient Express” – two of my favorite movies of all time. That being said, I was not necessarily disappointed with the film, but I wasn’t thrilled either.

I suppose that “Bad Times” isn’t all that bad if you haven’t seen “The Hateful Eight,” but having seen both, the former is definitely lacking.

“Bad Times” does highlight a very interesting and unique period of time in American history. The movie does an excellent job of displaying the 1970s through the characters, setting and music. Music is a staple throughout the entire movie. There is a constant flow of oldies coming from the jukebox as well as from Darlene Sweet, a backup lounge singer that has no problem working solo.

That being said, I think it’s important to look at the characters, because they attribute to the shortcomings of this movie. This film features a colorful cast ranging from a priest, to a vacuum salesman. Much of the excitement of the story stems from the idea that everyone has a secret that most will do anything to keep it that way.

My joy definitely came from the fact that among seeing the varying backstories, the movie often displayed varying points of view of a single event allowing me to answer some questions as well as creating more.

However, a certain point of view may make a person look conspicuous, where as someone else’s actions may be completely justified. This led me to have mixed feelings for all of the characters. I didn’t really find myself attached to any of them.

Unlike “The Hateful Eight” or “Murder on The Orient Express,” I felt as though “Bad Time’s” ending felt uninspiring. Both of the compared movies revealed in their plot coincidences what turned out to be nefarious schemes, and it all came together like one grand puzzle. I found joy in either confirming my suspicions or finding out that I was totally wrong and marveled at the intricacies of the villain’s scheme. When it came to “Bad Times,” I felt like I had three or four tiny puzzles that didn’t really connect to one another. There was a small amount of joy, but not to the scale of the other films.

I felt as though many of these downsides are on the part of the writers. The cast comprised mainly of recent stars such as Chris Hemsworth known for his portrayal of Thor in recent Marvel movies, Dakota Johnson the actress known for playing Anastasia Steele in the “Fifty Shades” series and Jon Hamm who recently portrayed Buddy in the film “Baby Driver.” These are just a few examples of this film’s star-studded cast.

While we’re on the topic of Hemsworth, if you were concerned that this would be a movie that didn’t have shirtless scenes, don’t be. They are there, and they are long.

All of that being said, I would strongly encourage you to make your own judgement. I feel as though my previous experience with “The Hateful Eight” has raised the bar and considering this movie is very similar, it makes them hard not to compare. If you’re interested in seeing both, I’d recommend seeing “Bad Times” first. Sure, it’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen, but there are plenty of worse ones out there.

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