December 31, 2018  (Web Review)

Bad Times at the El Royale

Fox, 141 min., R, DVD: $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $34.99, Jan. 1

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Writer-director Drew Goddard’s lurid, neo-noir crime-thriller begins ominously in 1959 with a bank robber (Nick Offerman) getting a back full of buckshot from an unknown assailant after burying a sack of cash under the floorboards in a Lake Tahoe hotel room. Flash-forward 10 years to the El Royale, a once-famous hotel/casino straddling the border between California and Nevada. Formerly a hopping hangout, hosting the Rat Park and other celebrities, it was abandoned after the proprietor lost his gambling license. Among its current guests are the bank robber’s brother, hard-drinking Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges); Motown back-up singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), who never scored as a soloist; and frantic, foul-mouthed Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) and her younger sister Rose (Cailee Spaeny), the latter having fallen under the spell of bare-chested, charismatic Bill Lee (Chris Hemsworth), a sociopathic cult leader. Plus there’s Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), a slick-talking traveling salesman from Biloxi, MI, and guilt-riddled, heroin-addicted Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman), the hotel’s only employee. These seven strangers are pretending to be someone they’re not and are each hiding a secret. A seedy, self-conscious film that eventually explodes with Tarantino-inspired bloodshed and violence, this is a strong optional purchase. (S. Granger)