Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In director Geo Santini’s gritty crime opera ‘Hotel Califronia’ we are introduced to Troy (Erik Palladino), who is back in town after an eighteen month ‘sabbatical’ of sorts. This town being Los Angeles of course. Troy gets himself a seedy room in a seedy part of town, makes a few calls to set a few things in motion as we prepare to see how Troy’s tale unfolds.

The first thing Troy does, after getting himself all situated, is call his boys from back in the day in Pete (Simon Rex) and Al (Tyson Beckford). They seem genuinely surprised to hear from Troy because of the circumstance surrounding Troy’s sudden departure but Troy is back and he wants to meet with them as soon as possible. The problem for Pete and Al is whether or not to let their boss Dmitri (Raymond J. Barry) know about Troy’s arrival back in town, considering Dmitri’s steadfast belief that Troy stole a bunch of money from him. Whether or not Pete or Al made that call, you’re gonna have to watch for yourself.

So Pete and Al make it to the hotel, enjoy an adult beverage and reminisce about old times even though everybody in this room is clearly on edge. Old time discussions consist of the crew making a transaction a few years back and getting jacked by a couple thugs. They know who did it and they wanted retribution but Dmitri, who they are working for, deep sixes that plan because the person that jacked the crew figures prominently in some future dealings Dmitri is working on.

One thing we have learned about Troy early on is that he’s a hothead and he doesn’t much listen to anybody and he manages to convince his boys to ignore Dmitri’s orders and get their stuff back. Of course it all goes straight to hell and even though this situation was a bad one, this isn’t the main reason why Troy had to leave town.

As we mentioned earlier Troy broke north because of some money Dmitri claims he stole, money which Troy attempts to assure his boys was actually part of a setup. Compile that with the fact that this money was marked to go to big time dope dealer Hector Ramos (Yancy Arias) who is also mighty pissed off at Troy for a number of reasons with most of these reasons having nothing to do with the missing money. Caught in the middle of all of this mayhem is Troy’s lady love Jessie (Tatyana Ali) who is paying a heavy price for her somewhat dubious decision to allow Troy to be her man.

But Troy didn’t just wander back in town all willy nilly like without a plan. As we said earlier, he’s set a few things in motion and all we have to do is sit back and see how these things play themselves out.

I had a problem with this movie ‘Hotel California’, and we will touch on that in a minute, but lets lock in on what makes this movie good. This is a crime movie and it is a pretty damned hardcore crime flick at that. It has a gritty look and feel to it and the tension in this movie was consistently high. The story itself is basically about bad people doing bad things in pursuit of bad ends, the fractured nature of the story, or at least the way the filmmaker chose to edit this film was confusing at first but at least they were consistent with this particular style so eventually everything pretty much fell into place as the film went on. The performances were also solid, nothing particularly extraordinary, but the actors clearly understood the characters that they were playing and they stayed true to these characters they were playing through the bitter end. And most of these characters had some bitter endings. Also because of the way the story was cut we never really know with 100% certainty what is going on at any given time since certain details are purposely and effectively hidden from us, and they are hidden in a way that you really don’t even have an opportunity to guess what might be going on in the background.

That’s all good stuff but the problem I had with this movie, personally speaking, is that there is absolutely nothing to root for in this movie. Erik Palladino might be our ‘hero’ but he’s violent, pathological and completely charmless. Do we want this character to succeed at whatever it is he’s trying to do? Not really but if he fails the alternative is just as bad, probably worse. I suppose we could feel some empathy for Tatiana Ali’s character of Jesse and what she had to endure through no fault of her own, but considering her future man introduced himself to her by saying he’s a drug dealer running from the police… Not that anybody ‘gets what they deserve’… but our sympathy is tempered somewhat by her questionable relationship choices.

This next thing is a MAJOR SPOILER so skip ahead if you haven’t watched the movie but I think this is a narrative flaw. Dmitri firmly believes Tory ripped him off, and as it turns out somebody did rip Dmitri off because the money is gone from the locked case that Dmitri himself filled with money that Troy had to deliver to Ramos. But the note that Dmitri stuck in the case with the money informing Ramos that Troy had killed his brother and his young daughter is still there. As a boss, wouldn’t it be reasonable for me to assume that if Troy got into the locked case and stole the money that he would’ve had the good sense to get rid of the note as well? Unless Troy can’t read? This would lead me, as Boss, to the clear conclusion that Troy didn’t steal my money. Of course I might’ve missed something there.

‘Hotel California’ was a good movie to watch because of its great presentation, gritty feel and good performances, there just not a lot to cling to in this movie. That’s more of a personal thing on my part and another might watch this movie and not have that sense at all.

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