Home Page > Movies Index (w/mixed oldies) > > Movie Review

This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Devil at the Crossroads

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) on IMDb

Plot Overview

On a stormy night in the late '60s/early 1970s, five world-weary travelers converge on the El Royale Hotel near Lake Tahoe (“Tahoe's best kept secret.”) They include “a priest, a negro, and a traveling sales­man”: Fr. Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), lounge singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), and vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm.) They are here to make a recovery, to make preparations, and to conduct a sweep, as the case may be. Late arrivals are hippie-chick Emily Summer­spring (Dakota John­son) and her little sister Rose “Boots” (Cailee Spaeny) who are here to get clear. At all their service is manager/bell­hop/bar­tender/cleaner Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman.) He seeks forgive­ness for a dark past. Party crashers to yet arrive are Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) and his followers. He comes for a reclamation.

British author Nicholas Searle had one of his characters say:
“Lying is how we lead our lives. It's the way we get on in the world. Whether you're selling second­hand cars, whether you're the prime minister, whether you're a climate change scientist. It's just how things are. The truth is secondary” (320).

We see Nixon on TV lying to us about Vietnam. The “priest” is just some joe wearing a priest's collar so people will avert their eyes and not see what he's up to. The black lounge singer wears a flowing wig to hide her short kinky hair. The obnoxious sales­man is actually a cool under­cover cop. And the hippie chick is from Alabama where people mind their own business. Billy Lee is on the news.


Martin Luther King
Jr.There's a MacGuffin of a clandestine film of a former big guest, which we never see and who is not named. How­ever, he is compared to Billy Lee who is prone to making long speeches, but this one's are not violent like Billy's. The guy on film is recognizable though he's now dead. And he'd be especially significant to the negroes.

His name is given away in the religious affiliations. Everyone at the hotel is Protestant except for Catholic Miles—or Billy Lee who is his own religion. The first Protestant to break with the Catholics was Martin Luther. His church was just a step over the line as is California from Nevada at this bi-state hotel. The name El Royale evokes royalty, so we get King. The mystery man, by my reckoning, is MLK.

The salacious nature of the reel is consistent with what was known about the man at the time. Kinky Friedman writes, (205)
Martin Luther King was given to fooling around a bit, apparently, in his extra­marital area. So the [FBI] pursued him relentlessly and got his whole life on tape. They'd bug his hotel rooms when he was on the road and come up with some gem like: “Oh, Martin, your dick is so big!” Then they'd call his wife and play the tape into the phone. (205)

Darlene describing cult leader Billy Lee might also have been alluding to big Martin when she says: “He talks so much he thinks he believes in some­thing, but really just wants to f__k who he wants to f__k.” Darlene through her business exposure in the music industry is inured to men shaking her down, so she is able to brush off the influence of the big man. Instead, to get ahead as a powerless black woman, she relies on hard work, right decisions, a white man's integrity, and prayer to an attentive God (Psalm 32:8). She asks, “Lord, I need your guidance.”

Miles Miller meeting Father Flynn says, “This is not a place for a priest, Father. You shouldn't be here.” The father, how­ever, thinks he should be where sinners need him, in a sense moving the church to them in their distress. This make­shift place of ministry would be subject to, (Eccl. 5:1-3) “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: there­fore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.”

A fool is Billy Lee who is always spouting off at the mouth. It was MLK who had a dream brought on by all his activism. But his words could have been fewer, at least by not expanding on Thomas Jefferson's all men being created equal, which worked well enough for fomenting a needed revolution, but had not been applied by Jefferson to racial equality. God in heaven had at one time taken care of the wickedness on Earth (Gen. 6:5-6) by sending a great flood, sparing righteous Noah. (Gen. 6:10) “And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” He trusted Noah to assign the status of his three sons according to their worthiness, which continues to this day as evidenced in other movies I've reviewed.

(Eccl. 5:4-5) “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” Having claimed to be a priest Father Flynn should administer last rites as needed. Billy Lee made no such claim.

(Eccl. 5:6) “Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: where­fore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?” Father Flynn is not going to get by with the excuse, “I'm not really a priest.”

(Eccl. 5:7) “For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.” Cult leader Billy Lee was full of vain words, and protestor MLK had a dream that hasn't been overly successful. It's fearing God that's important, so Father Flynn should step up and do the priestly duty.

Production Values

This drama, “” (2018) was directed by Drew Goddard. Its writer was Drew Goddard. The cast includes Jon Hamm, Chris Hem­sworth, Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, and intro­ducing Cailee Spaeny & Cynthia Erivo. All the actors performed really well, especially Hems­worth as a charismatic cult leader. Cynthia Erivo really belted out the '60s pop songs.

MPAA rated it R for strong violence, language, some drug content and brief nudity. It was filmed at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The plot loops back on itself frequently to catch us up on what is happening. This is good. It helps make sense of bewildering actions. The music is 60's gold played on a juke box with excellent sound. There's a cult flavor to the film, which might not appeal to everyone.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This movie opens a thinly disguised window on a famous personage. It was remarked at El Royale, “Some­times the memory of a man matters more than the man.” Or as Kinky Friedman writes, (209)

The whole world remembers Martin Luther King for “I have a Dream.” Only J. Edgar Hoover and his pathetic acolytes would remember him for “Oh, Martin, your dick is so big!”
El Royale” remembers the man while not naming him directly.

I felt the movie was suspenseful, fun to watch, and a welcome antidote to pervasive PC propaganda. It keeps you guessing at the plot while the flash­backs fill you in as it goes along. There was an art employed in its making. It's a movie worth seeing.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Special effects: Well done special effects. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Friedman, Kinky. The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Print.

Searle, Nicholas. The Good Liar. New York: Harper­Collins Pub., 2016. Print.