Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Bad Times at the El Royale


It is 1969, and four people arrive at a motel that is situated right on the Nevada/California state line. In fact, a red line goes through the middle of the lobby, so you can gamble only on one side. None of these people are what they claim to be, and the motel itself has its own secrets. It is a place that used to be host to members of the Rat Pack and other celebrities, but has fallen out of fashion. It is lonely, but not ramshackle.

You will soon be reminded of the better Quentin Tarentino films, with startling and unexpected twists, and time shifting so that you see different scenes from different perspectives. It is all quite well done, and I really liked it, though the final scene was played out just a bit too long for my taste. There is an excellent documentary on the DVD that details the shooting, but mostly deals with the really massive set, all indoors. I love set decoration. On a set there is nothing there that wasn’t put there for a reason. Every color, every texture, every object was pondered over, and then custom-made. Even things that don’t wind up in the picture, like the El Royale matchboxes at the front desk! The set is truly a co-star, along with some fine actors led by Jeff Bridges. Highly recommended, though I should warn you that it is quite violent.