Bad Times at the El Royale | Movie Review

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At the border of California, Nevada, and insanity, lies The El Royale. This 70’s psychedelic-inspired noir is filled with unexpected twists, incredible performances, and a shirtless Chris Hemsworth awkwardly dancing to Deep Purple. So it’s practically perfect.

Bad Times at the El Royale centers around a motel that lies half in Nevada and half in California, with a faded glory of yesteryear. The film brings together a hodgepodge of characters, each with their own objectives and sordid past, and it culminates into a stormy night filled with bloodshed and tears.

Jeff Bridges stars as Father Flynn, a pastor with a bad memory who isn’t who he seems. As Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) pulls up to the iconic motel, she meets Flynn and they enter together. They find an empty lobby and a cringingly racist vacuum salesman waiting for his room. Each check into the hotel alongside hell on wheels, Emily, played by Dakota Johnson.

As each guest settles into their respective rooms, the first dirty secret of the hotel emerges, which leads each character to a violent encounter and the truth behind their facade is revealed.

Bad Times at the El Royale is a fantastic nod to the 1970s and is a great character-driven ensemble piece. Cynthia Erivo is a stand out as the sweet but jaded lounge singer just looking for her big break. As Darlene Sweet, Erivo is sympathetic and strong as her character faces the increasingly dangerous and bizarre events of the night.

While Jeff Bridges is a powerhouse in this, the real MVP of the film is Nick Pullman, who plays the heroin riddled bellhop in charge of running the motel. While not much is known about his character at first, the movie shines a spotlight on him in the third act, and Pullman’s performance is simply stunning.

Overall, the film has a great tension to it, and each character is unique in their search for some kind of redemption. The director, Drew Goddard, who is best known for The Martian and Cabin in the Woods, creates an immersive and highly stylized reality that leaves you on edge. However, there is enough dark humor in it to keep you entertained. The only criticism I have is the pacing of the film. While the first two-thirds build up the tension, towards the end it seems to drag just a bit before the big finale is revealed.

About Bad Times at the El Royale

Synopsis: Seven strangers each with a sordid past come together at the El Royale, a seedy motel on the border of California and Nevada. As the night progresses each character must face their past and seeks redemption only for it to all go to hell.

Director: Drew Goddard

Writer: Drew Goddard

Stars: Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, John Hamm, Cynthia Erivo

Rated: R

Runtime: 2 Hours, 21 Minutes