Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Bad Times at the El Royale

This had potential, but it was ultimately squandered.  This reminded me of that period in the late 90s when there were a whole bunch of Tarantino wanna-be films coming out.  El Royale is absolutely a Tarantino mimic, though lacking in both clever dialogue and frenetic energy.  At first I found it intriguing, as a cast of characters wind up at this run-down casino lodge with mysterious backstories, but by the end it had all unraveled into a garbled mess.

I think my biggest problem with this story is how disingenuous it felt.  I could see the film-maker’s fingerprints all over it, especially in the character backstories and some of the ideas they chose to touch and linger on.  Some were suitable.  For example, there is a character with the backstory of having robbed a bank and his brother hid the money somewhere in the hotel.  That makes sense as a motivation for that character to be there and gives us just enough so that we can connect with him.

But then there is the backstory of the two girls, which basically goes like this: the younger sister is taken in by some sort of hippy cult leader, and the older sister kidnaps her to get her away from his influence.  This backstory ends up playing a huge role at the end and gives us some moments at the end which are unearned and far too heavy for what has come previously to that point.  The idea of a girl being brainwashed so completely like this should be the focus of an entire movie, not some side story to explain the presence of characters in an ensemble.  It feels like an obvious attempt to add emotional gravitas to this film, but simply doesn’t work.

Likewise with the story of the hotel clerk desperate to find forgiveness for things he did in the war, leading to a ridiculously drawn-out and indulgent scene involving a priest confession.  Again, another transparent attempt to add some sort of weight to the movie, but it slumps below its own capacity.

I did like the singer character though.


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