Film Review: Bad Times at the El Royale

10:04 October 15, 2018
By: Fritz Esker

Fans of Quentin Tarantino will likely find much to enjoy about writer-director Drew Goddard’s (The Cabin in the Woods)new thriller Bad Times at the El Royale.

Told in chapters describing the backstories of each guest at a down-on-its-luck hotel in the late 1960s, El Royale echoes both Tarantino and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. A vacuum salesman (Jon Hamm), an aspiring Motown singer (Cynthia Erivo), a priest (Jeff Bridges), and a quiet hippie (Dakota Johnson) are all staying at the titular hotel, run by a skittish drug addict (Lewis Pullman). Most of the people involved are not what they seem (neither is the hotel, for that matter), and soon bad things happen.

I’m being vague in my summary because part of the fun of the film is figuring out where it will go. After about an hour or so (the film runs 141 minutes), viewers will have a better sense of where it is going. But even then, Goddard strings together a few suspense set pieces that would make Alfred Hitchcock or Brian DePalma proud. 

The performances are strong across the board. Bridges is solid as ever as a man facing his own mortality. Erivo is worth watching in the future; she holds her own in her many scenes with Bridges and nails all of her songs, too. Chris Hemsworth, as a Charles Manson-esque cult leader, shows that his natural charisma can be put to use in villainous roles, too.

*** stars (out of four)

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