BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE is Much More than a Wet Shirtless Chris Hemsworth

Super envious of Kernel Blake, who got to review this one. BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE looks like a lot of quirky twisted fun and I gotta see it ASAP. They had me at Hemsworth walking in the rain shirtless – I mean really – that will sell a lot of tickets and plot unnecessary but lucky for you all there is much more to the El Royale. This ensemble thriller is out now from 20th Century Fox. It runs for a lengthy 141min and is rated MA15+. Enjoy Blake’s supposedly short review. All the best……………….Salty.

By Blake Currall

This is going to be a slightly different type of review than you are used to from me. I’m not talking about it being well written or mildly coherent, I mean it will be on the short side. That, in no way, is a reflection on the quality of BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, more the fact that you can’t talk much about the film without giving too much away. You’ll want to go in to this new film from Drew Goddard knowing as little about it as possible.


Bad Times at the El Royale Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo image
Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo



BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE begins with a prologue of sorts, with a man seemingly on the run, taking one of the rooms of the El Royale hotel apart to hide a briefcase in the floor. Later that evening, he is greeted at the door by a stranger who proceeds to gun him down and we then cut to many years later.

Set sometime in the late 1960s, the El Royale hotel has the unique attraction of being built smack-bang on the border between California and Nevada, with half of the hotel in one state and the other half in another. Once a hot spot for the biggest celebrities in the world, who would visit the hotel, walk across the room into another state and legally gamble, the El Royale is now mainly vacant thanks to changing liquor and gambling laws.

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE introduces us to four seemingly unrelated people, all turning up to check into the hotel at the same time. There’s smooth talkin’, good old boy, appliance salesman Laramie Sullivan (Jon Hamm, BABY DRIVER), elder priest Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges, THE BIG LEBOWSKI), aspiring singer Darlene (Cynthia Arivo, soon to be seen in WIDOWS) and the mysterious Emily (Dakota Johnson, SUSPIRIA) who has a unique way of signing her name.

Looking after this ragtag group of characters is the El Royale’s receptionist/janitor/tour guide/chef, Miles (Lewis Pullman, BATTLE OF THE SEXES). To delve any further into the film would pretty much give too much away.


Bad Times at the El Royale Jon Hamm image
Jon Hamm



With the film broken down into segments based on each room’s inhabitants, BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE takes a Tarantino-esque approach to the story telling, showing the same scenes from the viewpoints of the different characters, while also showing each players backstory as to how they made it to the hotel.

There are some incredibly tense moments and surprising twists that come out of left field like a sucker punch and for the most part they land brilliantly. For most of the runtime, you’re intrigued as the story slowly starts to unwind and the real motivations of these people is revealed. BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE is an at times tense, thrilling, incredibly fun, superbly told story with some truly fantastic performances by all involved.

The only real misstep is probably the length of the film, especially in the last act, where a glorious moustached Billy Lee (shirtless Chris Hemsworth, THOR & Most People’s Sexy Dreams) arrives at the El Royale. Here the film grinds to a bit of a halt, as his motivations and backstory are played out but don’t really seem to fit as well as the other main characters we’ve spent the previous 90 minutes with.


Bad Times at the El Royale Chris Hemsworth image
Chris Hemsworth



As I mentioned earlier, the performances across the board are superb in BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE. Jeff Bridges as the ailing, elderly priest with a past gives as good as you’ve come to expect from the legendary actor. Hamm as the slick, Southern boy is having an absolute blast in his role as the appliance salesman who has some secrets of his own.

Dakota Johnson as the tough, sharp tongued free spirit gives a great performance that thankfully has zero shades of grey to it but for me the real stars of BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE are newcomer Cynthia Arivo and Lewis Pullman, son of Bill. Arivo, who provides most of the Motown inspired soundtrack thanks to her amazing voice, is brilliant as the aspiring singer with stars in her eyes. Pullman, playing the seemingly innocent Miles also puts in an incredible performance, bringing so much heart and emotion to his role. These two are on the cusp of hitting it big, trust me.

Chris Hemsworth turns up to take his shirt off.

Writer, Director and Producer Drew Goddard has crafted such an intricate, well told story here that grabs you from the opening scenes and doesn’t let go until the end credits. Goddard, the creator of Marvel’s best Netflix series DAREDEVIL and director of the criminally underseen CABIN IN THE WOODS, has delivered another great film here, with memorable characters, great dialogue and a classic whodunnit/whatthehellisgoingtohappennext?! film with BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE and I can’t wait to see what he brings us next.


Bad Times at the El Royale Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo image
Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo



Well, this short review of BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE turned out far longer than I expected, a sign of a good film perhaps. Head to the El Royale, check in, sit back and don’t worry, you’ll have a good time. Even if you dislike everything about the movie at least there is a shirtless and wet Hemsworth.





Kernel Blake is a part-time beard bandit, philanthropist, industrialist….bicyclist…photographer, world traveller, movie lover, a man of few words who enjoys the finer things in life. Like reciting Snake Plissken quotes. And when all that fails, heads out to a racetrack to do skids. He can be found twatting @bcurrall80 and hipstergramming @bcurrall80

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.