“Bad Times at El Royale:” Good Times at the El Royale


PHOTO COURTESY/Youtube 20thCenturyFox

Samantha DeNinno, Culture Editor

Clocking in at two hours and 21 minutes, “Bad Times at El Royale,” is a punchy, yet long exercise on the deconstruction of the crime thriller, neo-noir genre, made famous by directors such as Quentin Tarantino.

Despite its length, director and writer Drew Goddard, of “Cabin in the Woods” and “The Martian” fame, successfully crafted a smooth film that subtly addresses the dilemma of faith and belonging in the late 1960s, in a quirky, violent manner.

Anchored by a strong cast, including Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth, seven strangers — including but not limited to, a priest, a vacuum salesman, a soul singer and a hippie — meet at the once glorious, El Royale motel, curiously resting on the border of Nevada and California. The strangers pick their rooms and one by one, we are let into both their present and past through the use of flashbacks, revelations and mysterious windows.

Erivo in particular shines in her role as Darlene Sweet, a down-on-her-luck soul singer, whose voice is used beautifully throughout the film. The Broadway actress injects a quiet strength and power into her spine and her voice, making her monologue to Hemsworth’s Billy Lee even more memorable for audiences watching.

Bridges plays her sparring partner the majority of the film, in both words and blows, and as always, plays him brilliantly. Hemsworth, arguably having the most fun in his role, brings a swagger to his Charles Manson-like character in a role not atypical of the actor.

However, the long run-time might be a concern to those watching. While infused with beautiful cinematography by DP Seamus McGarvey and a great score, there are points in which the story begins to feel thin and in need of a slight push. Sometimes this push occurs with an act of violence or confession and sometimes it doesn’t.

Not all questions are answered by the end of the film. We never find out who killed the first man, who the federal agent was looking for, or who exactly was in that film; however, there was a certain pleasure in being able to follow every line with a “wait-what-just-happened?” reaction. From the first crack of a well-aimed wine bottle, “Bad Times at El Royale” makes for a great time at the theater and well worth a rewatch.