“Bad Times at the El Royale” is a thriller written and directed by Drew Goddard. I was sort of assuming for some reason that it was based on novel. Nope…Goddard did this one all out of his darkly and twisted imagination and it came out pretty well.
I am not sure who I would call the lead since there is more of an ensemble feel to it. It stars Jeff Bridges, who puts in his usually compelling performance, alongside Jon Hamm, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, and Chris Hemsworth in a rather surprisingly sinister role which he handled quite convincingly as well.
This is dubbed a neo-noir thriller, which I can attest to. It does feel like something along the lines Mickey Spillane or Raymond Chandler would have written.
It starts off with an eclectic small group of people who have gathered at a curiously deserted hotel that sits right on the border between California and Nevada apparently not far from Reno. The El Royale seems to be under the sole care of a rather jittery young man named Miles, played by Lewis Pullman, who is new to me. Pullman does a fine job as well.
Almost all of these visitors has an agenda or purpose that is slowly reveals as the movie unfolds. One character is generally more honest about her purpose and lot in life, but you’re not always sure you can trust her either.
It is one of those movies that is a little heavy on altered perspectives and flashbacks. You sometimes see repeated scenes from a different viewpoint, which can be a touch frustrating. Those moments are still handled quite well.
There were a couple of loose threads in the story that I think could have been tied up better. The film did avoid being entirely predictable, which was nice. Every now and then, some true originality can occasionally peek out of Hollywood and tease us, making us wonder why writers can’t have a more consistently fertile imagination.
There were some cast members that I did not really know all that well, but they held their own against their better known and seasoned colleagues as far as performances went.
There were a couple of times where I thought the movies dragged a bit, and I felt there were still some important questions left unanswered, however the movie is still very engaging overall. If you like a little grim and gritty violence, loose morals and shifting loyalties, and just general human depravity in your cinematic outings, this is one to check out.