There’s nothing like an early check-out
(MA15+) Drew Goddard ( Cabin in the Woods) Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth
is the clear-cut takeaway from the alternately intriguing and infuriating Bad Times at the El Royale: it is not here for a good time, it is here for a long time.
It doesn’t really matter much that misery reigns supreme in what is essentially a hard-boiled mystery-noir affair.
However, it does matter that it takes a big, fat two hours and 20 minutes to flatten all possible wrinkles from an already thin and papery premise.
The year is 1969 at an out- of-the-way hotel sitting smack-bang on the NevadaCalifornia border. It’s so smack-bang, in fact, that a painted line delineating the separation of the states runs right through the establishment’s foyer.
As the action slowly picks up, a handful of freaky guests are checking in for the night at the El Royale.
As we have already gleaned from a compelling prologue featuring Nick Offerman as a past guest of the hotel not long for this world, one of the new arrivals will be unwittingly staying in a room where a huge whack of stolen cash is stashed under the floorboards.
Meanwhile, another of their number will be watching the guest ledger with intense interest, awaiting the right chance to access the suite and get their paws on that sweet moolah.
To further up the ante when it comes to working out who knows what about the money — and who has no clue whatsoever — there is a hidden series of corridors and one-way mirrors behind the walls of every El Royale room.
It takes a while to come together, but it gradually becomes clear that the evening will be a high-stakes lottery with an in- stant death sentence possibly awaiting those who don’t win.
Among the contestants assembled are suave travelling salesman Laramie Sullivan (Jon Hamm), doddering priest Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), itinerant soul singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) and tough-talking femme fatale Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson).
They’ll later be joined by a Charles Manson-ish cult leader named Billy Lee (a scenestealing Chris Hemsworth), whose jolting injection into proceedings is all about forcing a clear result in the cash-grab stakes and completing a final body count.
If you can be very patient with Bad Times at the El Royale, its flamboyantly strange closing act might still pay its way. Otherwise, think long and hard before signing in.
BARE IN THERE: Chris Hemsworth plays a cult leader named Billy Lee in the new movie Bad Times at the El Royale,