Bad Times at The El Royale has a Quentin Tarantino feel that harkens back to Pulp Fiction, sprinkling in a dash of classic noire. While it tries to punch above its weight in its narrative, it still delivers a fun ride worth the price of admission.
The movie opens itself with more than a few horror movie tropes. There’s an old hotel in the middle of nowhere, housing four wayward souls with dark pasts and secrets to spare that just happened to find the same place to bed down for the night. However, this is no slasher fest; this is a surprisingly original take on Tarantino’s action noir style that stands out against the remakes, reboots, and recycles that populate the silver screen these days. This is a story-driven movie with violence to fill in the blanks, and a significant chunk of the story is told through flashbacks revealing the dark past and darker secrets of the wayward soul characters.
Said souls are played by Jon Hamm, a vacuum cleaner salesman with Don Draper’s silver tongue, Jeff Bridges, playing a man who is most certainly not a priest, Dakota Johnson, a hippie who doesn’t care much for peace, Cynthia Erivo, a struggling Motown girl, and Chris Hemsworth doing his best Charles Manson impression. These actors manage to bear the heavy burden of the near-headache-inducing complexity of the plot without letting it fall in on itself.
Special mention has to go to the El Royale hotel itself; the setting it provides is both visually interesting and a perfectly surreal background to this surreal story. The action is well choreographed and keeps up the pace of the movie without overtaking the story or breaking the tone, and the editing is absolutely phenomenal. This movie was directed by Drew Goddard of Cabin in the Woods, and the meta-style he displayed in that film really shows here.
All in all, four out of five.
A fun romp through the desert night.