Movie Review: “Bad Times at the El Royale”

“El Royale” is a thought-provoking film with a twist at nearly every turn

Mark Reynolds
Staff Writer

“Bad Times at the El Royale” is the type of movie Hollywood needs. This electric, pulse-pounding thriller exudes style from the get go, carving its own unique place in the already rich 2018 film catalog. The film is reminiscent of a Tarantino product, but writer/director Drew Goddard puts his own unique spin on the formula, keeping the rich characters and the style, but adding his own thematic meanings and story stylings. 

Drew Goddard adds a magnificent look at morality and the meaning of choice to his resume with this film. Previously, he had directed the cult hit “Cabin in the Woods”, a horror movie that uses genre tropes in a very unique and imaginative way. He also is the creator of Netflix’s hit superhero drama “Daredevil”, which is pretty stellar as well. Goddard’s script shines in character dialogue, as he is able to weave believable and interesting characters across the film. The cinematography, while a little on the nose in parts, is exceptional. My favorite shot includes an extended take at the beginning of the film, a take where Goddard really flexes his filmmaking muscles.

Along with great direction, the movie boasts some tight acting from its star-studded cast. Jon Hamm plays his role very well here, showing that he continues to be one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors. Jeff Bridges turns in a performance that is expected of him, showing restraint and emotion in all the right places. Chris Hemsworth does a good job of playing up the charm of his character, but for the most part remains un-noteworthy. The real stars of the show are newcomer Cynthia Erivo, making her first big screen splash here as a black singer trying to make ends meet, and Dakota Johnson of Fifty Shades fame, who plays a woman with a dark past and a lot of anger. Johnson shows she can be much more than she was in the Fifty Shade movies, as she ended up being my favorite character by the end of the film.

The story contains twists and turns at nearly every beat, so I won’t dive into it as much as I want to. I will, however, tell you that this movie is a little more thought-provoking than most thrillers tend to be which is the films strongest selling point, in my opinion. If you want to simply turn your brain off and be entertained by a film, you will find that in spades here. If you want to be challenged a little and find a deeper meaning, you will find that as well.

“Bad Times at the El Royale” may not be able to contend with movies like Venom, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been made. If Hollywood wants to consider itself a mainstay in art and influence for years to come, movies like this need to be made. Movies that are original, well made, smart flicks that reward you for paying attention. Hollywood needs more movies like “Bad Times at the El Royale”.

Feature photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

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