Film Review – Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Title – Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Director – Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods)

Cast – Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman

Plot – Seven strangers converge on the El Royale hotel one rainy night in the late 1970’s in what’s set to be a night none of the guests will ever forget.

“Sir, we have a problem”

Review by Eddie on 16/10/2018

There’s a lot to like about Bad Times at the El Royale, the type of dialogue heavy and stylistically star-stuffed film that would’ve been right at home in the mid-90s, but despite so much good, this overlong and strangely forgettable film feels like it could’ve been a whole lot more.

The first film from Drew Goddard since his cult hit Cabin in the Woods from 2012, El Royale sees the talented writer and director indulge his cinematic desires with an A-list cast (that features a breakout Cynthia Erivo performance) and a loaded story, that brings together seven mysterious strangers who find themselves in a spot of bother one cold and stormy night at the El Royale hotel that sits smack bang in the middle of the Californian and Nevada border.

It’s a fantastic setting and set-up for a film and the utilization of the hotel and the eye capturing sets designed by the production crew are top notch, as is Goddard’s skilful direction that maximizes a number of long takes to showcase the surrounds and hidden secrets of the establishment, yet despite this and a great opening half, El Royale begins to quickly lose steam as we begin to understand the true nature and destination of our journey.

As is the case with these type of ensemble film’s, that are filled with colorful characters and multiple story strands, El Royale throws a lot into its two and a half hour runtime but after Goddard explores each character and what’s bought each of them to this time and place, it begins to become harder to care as Goddard’s self-indulgence (there’s far too much time spent on Erivo’s Darlene Sweet singing and shots of records being spun on a jukebox) begins to take hold.

A solid thirty minutes could’ve been cut from the film and it would’ve suffered very little, its arguable that perhaps the film would’ve even flowed far more fluidly and even though Goddard’s cast are largely on song, it doesn’t make the film anymore involving outside of its stylistic flourishes and splattering’s of standout individual scenes.

Of the cast, young Lewis Pullman is the biggest surprise of the lot with his mild mannered hotel concierge Miles Miller a genuinely nice addition to a loaded cast, of which Chris Hemsworth comes out of worse for wear as cult leader Billy Lee, a by the numbers villain that arrives late and makes very little impact, giving the film a rather so-so finale considering what had arrived before.

Final Say –

Outside of the initial hook and ripping set-up, Bad Times at the El Royale is a fine but unremarkable experience, victim of a director drawing things out too long for a story that doesn’t say or do anything of real substance and isn’t as smart as it perhaps thinks it is.

3 wolves out of 5

14 responses to “Film Review – Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

    • I felt like the fun sadly started to die off around the 90 minute mark, this really was a film I felt need a massive trim in the editing suite.

    • Yeh its a shame mate, I almost felt bad for not liking it more as there was some really good aspects of it but just never felt like it clicked into proper gear and by the end, it all felt like a bit of a waste of potential.

  1. I thought Hemsworth was great in a limited role, but I agree that Bad Times at the El Royale was a disappointment. I thought this would be a cult movie worth rooting for. Instead I left the theater wanting a whole lot more. Very on-point review.

      • Very odd choice indeed mate, you can even see it hurt First Man quite a bit competing against those more crowd pleasing/audience appeasing affairs.

  2. I’m somewhat more enthusiastic than you are, but I also noticed the great performance by Cynthia Erivo and the 90s echo (one name that came to my min dis Tarantino, of course). Thank you for your thoughts!

    My review is here, if you want to read it:

    I also noticed a big Tarantino influence on this one, but still enjoyed it a lot! Thanks for your review!

    If you are curious about mine, you can find it here:

    • It was very Tarantino-ish yet it wasn’t as cool as it thought it was, plus everything just culminated in a really “meh” way when all was said and done making you wonder why it had to be 140 mins long.

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