Bad Times at the El Royale is like a hit in baseball that makes the whole stadium stand up and cheer, but then about halfway through you realize the left fielder is gonna catch it at the warning track. For the first 1/3 or first 1/2 of this movie I was convinced I was about to see the best movie I'd seen in theaters for awhile. The second half of the movie took that hope and promise and dismantled it into a heap of practically unwatchable wreckage.
This movie ripped off just about every Tarantino movie I've seen off the top of my head. There were elements of Kill Bill story telling, and plot development mixed with basically the same setting as Hateful Eight combined with out of order storytelling from Pulp Fiction and a Reservoir Dogs-esque Mexican stand-off ending. Despite being almost impossible to ignore none of these blatant rip offs negatively impacted the movie for me. The only one that did was how it was a great movie for the first half, and then became horrendous in the second half like From Dusk Till Dawn.
Initially you're presented with a diverse group of relatively dynamic characters whose motivations and connections to each other remain mostly a mystery early on. This combined with a mysterious, and increasingly creepy setting create a very engaging, suspenseful atmosphere. From there the director promptly ruins everything he has going for him one foul move at a time until the audience is either walking out of the theater, snoring, jeeringly laughing out loud at how bad the movie is, or checking mlb playoff scores on their phones (all things I personally experienced in theaters).
First of all, Don Draper....I mean Jon Hamm.....easily has the most enticing storyline out of all the guests. He also does the most to advance what you assume is going to be the central plot line of the movie. However, instead of using this to keep a good thing going, they have him killed off by Dakota Johnson (who looked really hot in her hippy pants). My problem isn't necessarily that he died, even though I would've liked to see more of Don Draper....I mean John Hamm....my problem is how he does, and after he dies they completely drop anything regarding him or his storyline from the movie. First of all, an experienced undercover law enforcement agent is definitely going to secure who he believes to be a violent kidnapper before moving on and freeing a hostage. Instead he ignores her completely, doesn't check for any weapons, and dies. At least give me something more believable. After all, it's what Tarantino would've done. There's no more light shed on the people he was investigating at all, and all in all nothing really comes out of weird porn hotel operation they have going on at the El Royale. The only influence it has on the rest of the movie is vague references to a tape we don't get to see that has JFK committing some heinous sex act on camera. They don't even end up telling us what happens with the tape or who uses it for what it just disappears at the end.
Second of all, for a movie that's 2 and 1/2 hours long we did not need 20 minutes of it to be Darlene, aka a blatant Diana Ross reference that gets shoved down your throat a million times like you aren't smart enough to catch it on your own, singing. Her practicing singing in her room...fine. Hemsworth making her sing at the roulette table....fine, but even then can we shorten it up a little bit?
There wasn't too much wrong with Jeff Bridges character other than A.) for a guy with severe Alzheimer's he sure is able to recollect a lot of stuff after being drilled in the head with a glass liquor bottle B.) it seems like he can remember everything except his name C.) I understand him trying to team up with Darlene and explaining himself, but I didn't like how emotional he would get..it just seemed off to me.
Dakota Johnson (man she looked good in those pants) and her sister are another example of this movie taking a good thing and ruining it. The vagueness surrounding her and why she's kidnapped her sister work well when combined with Draper's..........Hamm's.....investigation. Even after Hamm is dead you're still left wondering who her sister called, why they're running away, and why she had to subdue her sister. Despite all this promise they completely and utterly lost me when Hemsworth aka the handsome Marylin Manson strolled into town.
By the time Hemsworth shows up, they've already killed off the best storyline, Darlene has sung for a total of about 4 hours, all mystery surrounding Jeff Bridges is gone, and I'm already sick of Dakota Johnson's seemingly feral sister. The absolute last thing the movie needed was to introduce another character, plus backstory, plus have him slow the movie down to a crawl. On top of that, we definitely didn't need the hotel employee to have a flashback giving us even more backstory on him so he could "save the day" I was perfectly content with heroin addict hotel employee who uses drugs to cope with his traumatizing job. Now he's a Vietnam vet too?! Not to mention I don't believe for a second his ptsd from the war would stop him from at the very least saving the priest he feels such a strong connection to.
After the story was dismantled and I lost interest in all of the characters I was relieved when the final credits rolled. Save your money, don't even bother watching on Netflix, just wait to see Once Upon A Time in Hollywood if you want to see a real Tarantino movie set in the 60's.