Bad Times at the El Royale

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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Written and directed Drew Goddard

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Lewis Pullman

A group of strangers has converged on the El Royale hotel. Their interactions soon turn into chaos as they seek to keep their secrets hidden.

This is one of the more talked about and unique offerings of 2018. The film was written and directed by Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods). The cast features Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Cynthia Erivo (Widows), Jon Hamm (Baby Driver), Lewis Pullman (The Ballad of Lefty Brown), Dakota Johnson (Black Mass), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor: Ragnarok).

If you’re going to attempt something that is likely to be compared to a Tarantino film, you have to go all in. For better or worse, that’s exactly what Drew Goddard did with this script. The story begins with a straightforward introduction of the El Royale hotel. As the various characters enter the film the tension quickly begins to build. The personalities of the people are unique and fun, and help to build mystery simply because they work in opposition to one another. This is a gritty and intense story that devolves into chaos as it moves forward.

The success of this script comes from the way the characters are designed, and the dialogue they’re given. There are some great exchanges that really pay off. The dialogue also never feels campy or overly direct. A lot is left for the audience to interpret. The failing of this one is the tonal shift that comes with the third act. Instead of relying on the mystery, this one seems to take a hard left turn and turn into something entirely different. This is where the movie becomes part Reservoir Dogs and part something else. There are still some great moments, but it seems to lose the unique feel that was established in the first two-thirds. Despite the issues, there is still a lot to like about this one.

Each of the characters in this one were perfectly cast. It’s especially hard to imagine this movie without Jeff Bridges playing Father Flynn. He does a wonderful job bringing out all of the strengths and weaknesses of his character. In this case, it’s his ability to bring out the weaknesses that mean the most. Jon Hamm also does a great job with his part in this one. His performance is two-sided, and it helps to establish a lot of the tone of the film. Dakota Johnson also does some nice work in this one. Her best work comes in some of the more intense scenes in the film.

Relative newcomers Lewis Pullman and Cynthia Erivo deliver some of the best work in this entire movie. Pullman’s performance is intense and complex, and he seems to establish the right chemistry with all of the other actors. Cynthia Erivo also delivers with the most emotional performance of the entire film. Chris Hemsworth also does some really interesting work in this one. His performance is unlike anything he’s done before, and it works. All of the cast members do a great job with the emotional aspects of the film, and they also handle some intense physical moments wonderfully.

This movie looks perfect for the story. The sets, costuming, and makeup all come together to create a version of the late 1960s that make sense with the material. The cinematography also does a great job capturing all of these elements. Editing plays a big part in the success of this one as well. Throughout the movie there are some great sequences, and the overall pace works nicely.

This is a good movie that misses being great due to a number of story choices. The performances elevate the material, and provide a bunch of memorable characters. If you’re a fan of non-linear storytelling, this is one to check out. I would also suggest this one to fans of the stars. I give this one 4.2 out of 5 stars.

Rating: R

Running Time: 141 Minutes


  1. In my opinion this is another inventive, unique and wide-open-eyes film snubbed by the Oscars. It grabbed my attention from the first scene through all the twists until the last. Every character has a backstory that could be a movie by itself. In fact, I feel there’s so much material in this film that it could have been a sucessful TV series just like Breaking Bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there is a lot to like about this one. Unfortunately, the story fell apart at times. I think you are not alone in your appreciation of this one. I just couldn’t completely buy in to the overall experience. Thanks for reading the review.


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