Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: "Bad Times At The El Royale" is fun, post-Tarantino noir

Bad Times At The El Royale Review
Ever since the phenomenon that was Quentin Tarantino, there have been people in Hollywood constantly trying to recreate his genius. I can name probably ten movies off the top of my head between 1992 and today that have clear inspirations from the early days of Quentin's work. Anytime in Hollywood when someone or some studios see a formula that is working, there is always a push to try and recreate it. There seem to be no patients or copyrights out there and its common to see several clones of something else. Most of the time, these clones seem to fall short of what they are emulating. Like a classic movie that never needed to be remade.

"Bad Times At The El Royale" is essentially a group of well-known actors playing characters who all have a dark secret of some kind. These characters all meet at a specific spot in order to find something, and in their pursuit to find this said McGuffin, there ends up being betrayals, double-crosses and violence. All the while the characters speak, act and pose in really, really cool ways. If you can't see the parallels to both "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" in that short synopsis, you are truly not paying attention. Sure, there is some parallels to Agatha Christie. Sure, you can even reach and see some parallels to "The House on Haunted Hill." But this movie is pretty much a reaction to the work of a specific artist. Another post-Tarantino neo-noir film.

I've normally found these movies to range from mediocre to good. When I was in high school, I sure thought "Smokin' Aces" and "Lucky Number Slevin" were awesome. But re-watching them now, they are just exercises in style and they aren't nearly as clever as they seem to think they are. With that said, I actually enjoyed myself through most of this movie. It's got a stellar cast including the likes of Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, and Chris Hemsworth. What could have easily been a movie of recognizable group of actors goofing off. But I can say all the actors give it their all and try to make it count.

What's interesting is that for a fairly simple story, its overly-long. Pacing is a serious issue here, and I do mean serious. For a slick movie about a group of people looking for lots and lots of loot, there is no reason why the movie should be anywhere close to three hours. Yes, I know both "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs" clock in close to that too, but Tarantino's scripts were so originally written that time would fly by. I can't say the same for "Bad Times At The El Royale." The script is pretty standard, and I know the filmmakers are trying for some juicy dialogue, but not much of it really lands. Not in the way they intend at least.

But the actors we know and love are enough to string us along unti the end. They keep things going and keep us engaged through the weak pacing. Its no "Pulp Fiction," that's for sure. But there is enough here to consider this a win.


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