Bad Times at the El Royale is an exceptionally stylish, gripping and sleek crime thriller. Telling the story of a group of strangers all coming together at the titular hotel, the film glides along at a beautiful pace, spreading out each sordid reveal perfectly.
Drew Goddard’s creative follow-up to The Cabin in the Woods, it is written with just as much intelligence yet directed with far more flair. Bad Times at the El Royale is very much Goddard paying homage to Hitchcock’s slowly built suspense and Tarantino’s captivating storytelling and the result comes off as highly original.
It’s a testament to the skill of Goddard that he is able to take these elements from directors he clearly admires and make them wholly his own, crafting his own hugely intriguing story and having the film move at such as gloriously smooth pace.
Bad Times at the El Royale is a film that constantly keeps you guessing. Whether it be character motivations or simply asking yourself: “what the hell goes on at this hotel!?”, it doesn’t reveal everything to you, instead leaving you to question specifics. This may appear at first to be a fault of the film yet it works so well in leaving you intrigued that you’ll want to talk to as many people as possible about the story that just played out.
Truly made by the wonderful performances given by the entire main cast that includes the likes of Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Bad Times at the El Royale feels like Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight if it was set in the 1970s. In such a cast, it’s incredible that Cynthia Erivo in her film debut gave the strongest, most nuanced performance that is more than enough to keep a smile on your face.
Her character, Darlene, is a singer and Erivo does not hold back in this department either. Her singing voice is arguably better than her acting and her acting in this film is near enough flawless. That should say enough.
Perhaps the most pleasing, surprising and downright enjoyable performance in Bad Times at the El Royale, however, is Chris Hemsworth’s. A previous collaborator of Goddard’s, Hemsworth plays a sinisterly charming and darkly charismatic cult leader who appears like a calm angelic hippie when we first meet him but like always in films of this nature, no one is ever as they first seem and we eventually see Hemsworth’s character’s true and very twisted side.
At risk of spoiling any of this remarkably compelling story, no more can be said about the characters, but it truly pays to go into this film knowing as little as possible about what you’re going to see. Written, shot and directed beautifully, often with huge, captivating long takes and extended scenes of dialogue, Bad Times at the El Royale is a perfect treat for fans of a slick, smooth crime thriller. It’s a perfect treat for Tarantino fans while you wait for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
It is a film that you will not be able to take your eyes off for a second; and with a run time of just over 2 hours 20 minutes, that’s quite a feat. Bad Times at the El Royale should get us all very excited to see what comes out of Drew Goddard’s mind next. The Cabin in the Woods was certainly a very smart, very meta horror film for his directorial debut, but this was a serious step up! It should not be missed!