Writer/director Drew Goddard is a special kind of filmmaker. He gives us movies we think we’re familiar with going in, but coming out, that view is completely different. That happened previously with Goddard’s last outing with Cabin in the Woods; looking like your typical horror/slasher film but later revealed to be so much more than that. Bad Times at the El Royale is no exception; this is an extremely well-directed and crafted film that’s ambitious in terms of how it juggles its storylines yet does it meticulously, down to the last detail.
In a lot of ways, this movie feels like Hitchcock meets Tarantino with Goddard, yet adding his own unique spin. It takes its time in introducing us to our central protagonists, fleshing them out as the plot unfolds which makes the experience all the more fascinating. Sometimes that can be frustrating, especially if you’re just a casual moviegoer, but if you stick with it long enough it delivers its answers on a plate brilliantly. The film boasts a fantastic soundtrack that features the likes of The Crystals and The American Breed, plus the cinematography by legendary DOP Seamus McGarvey is masterfully handled.
Goddard went out of his way to include an all-star cast and he succeeded in giving us that; Jeff Bridges gives us his best performance since True Grit, while BAFTA-nominated rising star Cynthia Erivo makes a strong impression as well as some incredible vocal lungs to boot! Finally freed from her Fifty Shades of Grey image (thank God!) Dakota Johnson is finally able to let loose and deliver a solid portrayal of the no-nonsense hippie that has zero qualms about combating anyone she deems a threat. Cailee Spaeny impresses as the sister who blurs the line between innocence and insane, and Chris Hemsworth proves to be a great baddie in the Charles Manson-like Billy Lee, perfectly balancing seduction with sinister.
If there’s any criticisms, it’s that at 141 minutes long it feels a tad stretched out which results in a few pacing problems here and there, as well as a few character decisions that feel kind of out of left-field. Nevertheless, Bad Times at the El Royale is an impressive film that further shows why Drew Goddard is an underrated talent. This was an entertaining delight, full of memorable characters, plenty of twists and turns, snappy dialogue, and a intense climax. This film wasn’t shown in that many multiplexes, bombed at the box office and received some lukewarm reviews, but it deserves more attention than it got and this reviewer encourages you to check out this film when you are able to.
Dir: Drew Goddard
Scr: Drew Goddard
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeney, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth
Prd: Drew Goddard, Jeremy Latcham
DOP: Seamus McGarvey
Music: Michael Giacchino
Run time: 141 mins
Bad Times at the El Royale is out now on Blu-Ray and DVD.