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“Bad Times at the El Royale” Taking Sides




Review by John Delia

Numerous filmmakers have shocked and hammered their audiences with unexpected vile acts, surprising twists, distasteful behaviors and contemptible desires, but they still can’t top the master Quentin Tarantino. Oh a few have come within a hair close like the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, and Francis Ford Coppolo. They are the leaders that many have tried to emulate due to the offbeat style that provided thrillers like Fargo, The Shinning, The Godfather, Goodfellas, and Lost Highway.

Enter Drew Goddard with his first attempt at a thriller called The Cabin in the Woods which he wrote and directed, but still not the thrills of any of Tarantino’s work or the directors that I’ve mentioned above. But, with his latest entry into the movie theaters opening this weekend called Bad Times at the El Royale, he may have created a “Tarantinoesque” feature that should knock your socks off, make your head spin, and elicit a few “Oh! Did that just happen?” and “What!” One might argue that it’s just a rework of Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, but I’m not buying it, and don’t care if it rings foul. This creation does what’s expected of it, entertain. And unless someone has spoiled it for you, you won’t see a lot of twists or the knockout punch coming.

Jon Hamm as Sullivan, Jeff Bridges as Father Daniel Flynn and Cynthia Erivo as Darlene Sweet in BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

Four persons check into the El Royale, an icon of a motel that’s divided by the border between Nevada and California. First in line and awaiting the arrival of a desk clerk is Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), a FBI agent who’s checking out the place. Before the clerk can be found, aspiring singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) arrives looking for a room. They are followed by Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges) a clergyman and Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) a fireball who’s in a hurry to get into a room. She has her teenage daughter Ruth Summerspring (Cailee Spaeny) in the car.

The guests are assigned rooms split between California and Nevada and retire to the privacy they expect. So begins a tale so despicable yet unpredictable that should keep you off guard and tempt you to look away, but don’t. Director and writer Goddard lays out his crafty tale right in front of you dropping clues you won’t pick up, mystify your brain to stump you and just when you figured who would die next, it’s not their turn.

Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) and Ruth Summerspring (Cailee spaeny) in BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

The cast is brilliant here, making their characters wicked, quirky, vicious and devious. You know, exactly what makes a crime film over the top. Not a boring minute or a dull moment, the movie plays out at a very fast pace. Keep your eyes on the screen as most of the decadence happens in a flash and when you least expect it.

Leading the cast is the thick skinned old clergyman played by Jeff Bridges with a performance you’ll not forget. Add the sly Emily, one of Dakota Johnson’s better roles, who’s fleeing a past she wants to leave behind, but knows it’s following her. Then there’s sweet Darlene, Cynthia Erivo who’s working her character and she’s anything but innocent. Falling in line is Sullivan a role perfect for Jon Hamm. He’s a creature of habit whose FBI work ethic includes spying on the hotel guests. But don’t go out to the lobby for popcorn when Miles (Lewis Pullman) the desk clerk is on screen, as he’s not right in the head. Then there’s Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) who’s looking for his daughter. It’s an ensemble you’ll never forget.

Bad Times at the El Royale has been rated R by the MPAA for strong violence, language, some drug content and brief nudity. The violence is nasty and often extremely brutal that the film should be rated a HARD R that’s beyond NC-17. With all the blood and guts being blown out of bodies, you would think that it was open season on humans.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Probably the wildest thriller you’ll see this year. (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman and Chris Hemsworth
Directed and written by: Drew Goddard
Genre: Suspense, Mystery, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language, some drug content and brief nudity
Running Time: 2 hrs. 21 min.
Opening Date: October 12, 2018
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox
Released in: Standard, Dolby Atmos/Dolby Cinema

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