BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (2018)

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BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (2018)

A review by Adam Lovett

Writer/Director: Drew Goodard
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pullman, Cailee Spaeny, Shea Wigham

“Shit happens, get the whisky.”

Let’s be clear, BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE is a movie made by movie lovers for movie lovers. That simple. The type of pulpy goodness that grooves me made by a filmmaker fluent in the language of cinema.

Right from the extended opening static shot that sets it all in motion its clear we are in the hands of professionals. Unashamedly B-movie fodder, it’s a playful, stylish neo-noir tale full of characters that talk like they are in a movie without being meta…except for when they slyly are.

Packing a vibrant Hitchcockian quality that’s like if REAR WINDOW were set in the Bates Motel combined with a post modern Jim Thompson meets Dashiell Hammett influence. It’s a fresh witty yarn full of twists and turns driven by mystery and intrigue to deliver engrossing popcorn entertainment.

The violence is sudden and brutal. The darkness of the plot sometimes unsettling, but it’s all delivered with a winking grin. The kitschy 70’s aesthetic and the pop culture anachronisms just add to the pleasures. The cinematography uses color and composition to capture the eye and the whole thing is constantly in forward motion. The Motown/Stax soundtrack is a blast.

As the layer’s peel back with a Rashamonesque narrative some of the turns are easy to guess but that doesn’t reduce the intoxicating pleasure that is being had by writer/Director Drew Goddard. You can imagine he was giggling at his keyboard and then thanks to casting everything becoming more than what was on the page.

Armed with a structure that allows each part to have its moment in the blinding neon light. Like all chatter in this playhouse the characters too are not what they seem and the cast all dig the duplicity.

Jon Hamm amuses as the vacuum salesman with accouterments Laramie Seymour Sullivan. Bridges is the preacher with a past packing a Flynn alias for Tron fans. Dakota Johnson is the femme fatale that may just have a moral compass.  Cailee Spaeny is the young victim of traumatic compulsions. Lewis Pullman as the hotel clerk with an affable Disney goofiness takes his role and runs with it.

For me Cynthia Erivo as the supreme singer Darlene Sweet is nothing short of a revelation. I’ve never seen her in anything before now. She has an effortless, natural presence, an energy that fluctuates according to the demands of the script making every frame that more emotionally connecting.

It may take a while for him to appear but when a pumping, grinding bare chested Hemsworth swaggers on in as a charismatic cult leader it’s immediately clear it’s the performance of his career.

Sure it should have been a 90-minute slice of trashy fun, but if you’re buying what its selling there is never a dull moment. If you’re looking for substance, look elsewhere but if you want a good time at the the El Royale (TM. the pun) it’s worth checking into a room for the night.

One comment to BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (2018)

  • Shaun  says:

    Loved this one!

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