Director: Drew Goddard
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth
RunTime: 2 hrs 22 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Violence and Nudity)
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Opening Day: 25 October 2018
Synopsis: Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe's El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption... before everything goes to hell. Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson and Cynthia Erivo lead an all-star cast in BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE.
Damn, Chris Hemsworth’s bare chest is indeed distracting!
For a good 15 minutes during the finale of this thriller film, the 35 year old actor’s glorious physique is on full display as he goes all murderous and psychotic. If you are one of those who felt Thor wasn’t shirtless enough in the Avengers movies, go lap up this flick. It should quench your thirst adequately.
Hemsworth is one of the members in the fine ensemble cast gathered for this movie directed by Drew Goddard, who is known for his writing work on movies like Cloverfield (2008), World War Z (2013) and The Martian (2015), for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Each of the characters has a dark secret and they have come together in a hotel named El Royale.
Hemsworth is a charismatic cult leader who has more up his sleeves than a sculpted body, Jeff Bridges is a priest who has is losing his memory, Cynthia Erivo is a struggling soul singer hoping to hit the right notes, Dakota Johnson is a strong headed woman who wants to save her younger sister (Cailee Spaeny) from a cult, Lewis Pullman is a concierge who yearns for forgiveness, while Jon Hamm is a salesman who has a mission to accomplish.
Each actor brings something unique to the table. Bridges (Kingsman: The Golden Circle) effortlessly displays his acting chops while British musician Erivo’s vulnerability is a nice match for the veteran actor’s anchored performance. Johnson (Fifty Shades Freed) puts her Anastasia Steele persona from the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise to good use, purring in a titillating manner to her male co stars. Spaeny (Pacific Rim Uprising) plays her delusional younger sister with the right amount of dreaminess, while Pullman (The Strangers: Prey at Night) reminds us of a less showy version of Tom Holland. Hamm (Tag) is on good form here as he runs from location to location trying to uncover the truth.
Goddard’s concept of seven strangers clashing in a shady hotel on the California Nevada border might have worked well on paper, but there is something about this overstretched film that bugs us. Running at 141 minutes, there are moments you feel are all style and no substance – the pacing can definitely be improved by tightening the edits. As the film progresses, you know how pieces are going to fit together but it waits too long to give viewers a much needed sensory punch.
Luckily for the filmmakers, all is not lost because of the impressive production values. The cinematography by Seamus McGarvey (The Greatest Showman) is a visual treat. Making full use of the set’s neon lights (kudos to the art direction team), this is a film that should be experienced on the big screen.
Of course, the movie is blessed with a strong cast where every actor delivers a compelling performance. It also helps that every time Hemsworth appears on screen, his chiselled bod will make gals blush and guys envious.
(A competent ensemble cast and stunning cinematography save the sometimes dreary thriller from suffering bad times)
Review by John Li