The “50 Shades” beauty admitted to being “extremely distracted” by Chris Hemsworth’s statuesque body.

  • Chris Hemsworth’s role as a ruthless cult leader in Bad Times at the El Royale showcases his ability to play a villain with surprising intensity and charisma.
  • The film challenges genre perceptions and explores the nature of violent fanaticism through Hemsworth’s portrayal of a character modeled after cult leaders like Charles Manson.
  • Hemsworth’s limited screen time in the film is used effectively to create tension and make his character’s interactions with the other characters impactful, showcasing his range as an actor.

Although Chris Hemsworth’s role as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe successfully turned him into one of his generation’s most popular leading men, he has managed to keep his persona interesting by constantly challenging expectations. Thanks to the revisions made by Taika Waititi in Thor: Ragnarok, Hemsworth was able to insert an added level of humor into the titular character, proving that he could handle comedic, character-driven material with the same ease as an action sequence. Hemsworth even managed to showcase his aptitude for comedy in some films that were beneath his talents; while neither 2015’s Vacation nor 2016’s Ghostbusters did much for their respective franchises, Hemsworth managed to steal both films with his hilarious performance. Despite his newfound mastery of humor, Hemsworth has never shied away from more serious projects. The underrated 2018 thriller Bad Times at the El Royale showed that when he needed to be, Hemsworth could be utterly terrifying.

Bad Times at the El Royale Poster 2018

1969. Four strangers check in at the El Royale Hotel. The hotel is deserted, staffed by a single desk clerk. Some of the new guests’ reasons for being there are less than innocent and some are not who they appear to be.

Chris Hemsworth Plays a Ruthless Cult Leader

Bad Times at the El Royale is centered on a group of enigmatic characters, all of whom represent some sort of archetype, who are trapped within the El Royale hotel on the California-Nevada border during the late 1960s. Priest Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), aspiring singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), hippie Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), and salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm) claim to have never met each other before. However, the hotel’s young concierge, Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman), suggests that they were all brought to the isolated location for a reason. The curiosity that the characters initially feel transforms into fear as Miles hints that there is a larger threat that has drawn them together. That threat takes the form of Hemsworth’s character Billy Lee, a ruthless killer who has gathered a cult following.

Bad Times at the El Royale hails from writer/director Drew Goddard, who previously gave Hemsworth a sizable role in the satirical horror film The Cabin in the Woods. Even though The Cabin in the Woods was released prior to The Avengers, Goddard understood that placing Hemsworth at the center of an ensemble could be seen as stunt casting; Hemsworth is such an established star that he tends to dominate his supporting cast. The stunt casting worked well in The Cabin in the Woods because it was surprising, as killing off Hemsworth’s character early on in the story established that the film was unafraid to upend expectations. The stunt casting is equally successful in Bad Times At The El Royale because Hemsworth had never played a real villain before. It’s an outlier role for him, even compared to his other non-Thor performances.

The film works well at challenging perceptions about the genre, as each of the characters represents a specific archetype that would have been common in films from the 1960s. This creates surprising moments that reveal latent truths about the characters. It’s shocking when Flynn is revealed to be a thief and when Miller discusses his violent experiences during the war. However, none of the twists are quite as impactful as the revelation about Billy’s real intentions. Initially, he shows a casual charisma, and appears to be nothing more than a good-looking surfer; this makes it all the more shocking when his darker intentions are revealed. Hemsworth’s immense physicality, best depicted in the Extraction franchise, makes him even more intimidating.

‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ Explores Violent Fanatacism

Casting Hemsworth as a cult leader was a clever way for the film to explore the nature of violent fanaticism. Although the movie only briefly alludes to various historical events from the 1960s, Billy is clearly modeled after cult leaders like Charles Manson. Hemsworth would never be mistaken for a Manson-esque cult leader, which is why it’s such a brilliant piece of casting. The inherent charisma that Hemsworth has allows the audience to put their guard down, as they wouldn’t have expected to see him in such a villainous capacity. This makes it even more shocking when Billy starts making fanatical statements and attacking the other residents of the El Royale.

Billy is an intimidating villain because of his ability to warp other characters’ minds. Emily hints to Flynn and Darlene that her younger sister, Rose (Cailee Spaney in a pre-Priscilla breakout role), has been indoctrinated into a violent cult. Although they had once been as close as sisters could be, Emily now believes that Rose has turned into a completely different person. The seriousness with which Emily discusses Billy’s threat makes him more intimidating. In the film’s earlier moments, Emily is sarcastic and snippy towards the other characters, but she gets completely serious when discussing Billy and how he turned Rose into one of his fanatical followers. Emily tends to his every whim like a minion that has no personality of her own; it’s hard to imagine how Rose could have ever been the person that Emily initially described.

Chris Hemsworth Makes ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ More Intense

The cult leader in Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale does a great job of escalating the tension ahead of Hemsworth’s first appearance, as there is an aura of mystique around who Billy actually is. At 141 minutes, Bad Times At The El Royale is a long movie that risks losing its sense of momentum, particularly during the third act when there are so many revelations made about the characters’ different intentions. Billy is only briefly introduced in flashbacks that explore how Rose first joined his cult before he finally shows up at the El Royale. Saving Hemsworth’s interactions with the other characters for the last segment allows the film to make the absolute most of his limited screen time. It inspires the audience to pay close attention to everything he is doing, as the film has clearly reached its climactic moment.

Bad Times At The El Royale was unfortunately overshadowed by other films during its initial release, but time has been kind to this unusual thriller. It is rare to see such an audacious, creative crime thriller with so many major stars produced by a studio in an IP-driven market. It’s to Hemsworth’s credit that he signed up for such an ambitious project, and proved to his Marvel fans that he did have a dark side.

Bad Times at the El Royale is streaming on Freevee.

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