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Review: Bad Times at the El Royale

Drew Goddard and his incredible cast treat us to a good time at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale, the new film from The Cabin In The Woods writer-director Drew Goddard, takes a simple premise and stuffs it so full of influences, reference, and characters that it can’t help but be a fun, if indulgent, ride. It’s hard to not enjoy a movie with a soul-heavy soundtrack, Jeff Bridges straight-up chewing on dialogue, Cynthia Erivo displaying singing and acting prowess in equal measure, and Chris Hemsworth playing a cult leader. Add in the rest of the cast, including Dakota Johnson, Lewis Pullman, and Jon Hamm, and you have the best ensemble of the year so far.

The film opens with a criminal-type (Nick Offerman) burying a bag of money under the floorboards of a modest hotel room before being killed. Flash forward to a decade later, sometime in the late 1960s, and the film begins in earnest.

Four guests – priest Father Flynn (Bridges), vacuum salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Hamm), singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) and an unnamed mystery woman (Dakota Johnson) – descend upon the El Royale, a former hot-spot, now run-down and staffed by a single employee, Miles (Pullman). After the check-in, it’s all a steady stream of reveals and reversals; every character, including the hotel, has something to hide.

Running over two hours, Goddard is in no hurry, and the pace will surely alienate some audience members. But, there is a certain assuredness and comfort that comes with a movie that’s in no rush, especially when the characters are such a pleasure to spend time with. Bad Times won’t work for everyone, but for those who buy in and endure the indulgence, this may be the best time to be had at the movies this year.

Dani Saad

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. Unless you're Harry Potter in which case you'll lose... everything.