Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Movie Review: "Bad Times at the El Royale" (2018)

Director: Drew Goddard
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 21 minutes

The lives of several strangers intersect at the El Royale hotel on the border of California and Nevada, resulting in bad times for everyone.

Bad Times at the El Royale 2018 movie still Jon Hamm Jeff Bridges Cynthia Erivo
"Shit happens. Get the whiskey." (Image Source)
A good deed never goes unpunished. "Bad Times at the El Royale" is written and directed Drew Goddard, who is best known as the writer/director of the comedic horror flick "The Cabin in the Woods." This film centers on the El Royale hotel in Tahoe, which sits on the border of California and Nevada. The El Royale used to be a hot spot for celebrities and politicians but has since fallen on hard times. On an oddly busy day for the usually deserted hotel, four strangers arrive and are each looking for a room. Vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm) is the first to arrive, followed by a priest named Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and a singer on her way to Reno named Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo). Finally, a seemingly ill-tempered young woman named Emily (Dakota Johnson) shows up and is reluctant to let people know who she is. It is obvious she is running from a troubled past that may be hot on her heels. Not everyone is who they say they are and not everyone is who they claim to be, and it turns out, the El Royale has just as many secrets as the people staying there.
Bad Times at the El Royale 2018 movie still Dakota Johnson
"You spend your life getting shook, you know how to spot a shaker." (Image Source)
"Bad Times at the El Royale" is a cool, stylish crime drama sprinkled with sharp humor, a little mystery, and nail-biting tension and intrigue. The story is told in segments, each one focusing on a single character and the room they get for the night. We see their past and their perspective of the same intersecting time period at the hotel. We often watch the same moments play out many times from different vantage points as little bits of information are disclosed at certain times. This may feel repetitive to some viewers. We personally love this style of interlinking storytelling when it is done right, and we believe Goddard hits the nail on the head in this case. Apart from the intricate story, "El Royale" has a stellar ensemble cast, and every actor gives a fantastic performance. Many of the characters are rather despicable people, but most of them manage to be endearing in some way. Jeff Bridges is in top form as a fake priest with a shady past. Rivaling the seasoned Bridges in every way is Cynthia Erivo, who is quickly making waves with each impactful performance she gives (she is tremendous in "Widows"). Erivo is phenomenal as Darlene Sweet, and she even gets to show off her astonishing singing voice as well. Needless to say, we are already fans of hers. Chris Hemsworth gets to play a charming but rather terrifying character in Billy Lee, a charismatic cult leader with a creepy disposition. When Billy Lee pops onto the scene already in progress at the El Royale, things start to get really exciting and even a little nail-bitingly terrifying. Since there are so many characters, this movie runs 2 hours, 21 minutes in length. Our main critique is that it does feel a bit long, but we honestly can't think of what could have been cut for time to keep the story as compelling as it is.
Bad Times at the El Royale 2018 movie still Chris Hemsworth
"You knew the game as soon as you started playing." (Image Source)
"Bad Times at the El Royale" is sure to give you a lot of bang for your buck. We're disappointed this film didn't make much at the box office, but we think it'll be a sleeper hit when it comes out on DVD/blu-ray and streaming services. Give it a try!

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.4/10
RT Rating: ~73%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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