BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE is a masterpiece to me. It doesn’t have to be to you. It has beat out Mission Impossible Fallout as my favorite/best film of the year. Everything in the movie flowed perfectly for me, the story, characters, acting, tone, etc. Although it is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes a lot of the mainstream critics are complaining that it doesn’t have a big genre bending twist like Drew Goddard’s previous film The Cabin In The Woods and it kind of a Tarantino rip off in some places. The critics are just basing that on that the film cuts back and forth between what is presently happening and each of the tenant’s stories before they entered the hotel with old fashioned title cards. But this movie isn’t a Tarantino rip off at all. This has a mind of its own. Tarantino’s films all sort of wink wink at the camera at every opportune moment, have dialogue that toes the line of being too over-the-top yet being genius at the same time, and none of them can be taken too seriously and are always playful. This films tone has director Drew Goddard’s own sense of style. He is a unique visionary that is trying to bring an individual palette into the Hollywood game and isn’t trying to simply just copy other films and directors. And those are just some of the reasons I love this film, but mainly because I found this to be an original piece in a flood of other pics that are either sequels, franchise reboots, remakes, etc, etc, etc.
If you’ve seen the trailer, and if you try to explain it to someone, it sounds like the onset of a joke: a priest, a singer, a rebel, and a salesman walk into a hotel in 1969. Each have something to hide or are more than what they seem. They’re lives happen to interconnect on this fateful night where some of the guests won’t make it out alive. And if you’ve seen the trailer you know there’s a young man that runs the hotel and Chris Hemsworth as a hippie Charles Manson type shows up at one point. That’s all you need to know. The whole experience of this film is the journey itself. And the journey is incredible. The story itself has some minor twists and turns with the characters, but do not go into this film expecting something shocking like the entire second half of The Cabin In The Woods. I know that the trailer, maybe, makes it seem like something huge is going to upend your world, but no, Drew Goddard doesn’t just want to be like M. Night Shyamalan where the audience expects something huge in the middle/end of the film that will drop your jaw to the ground. He testing each of these cinematic waters, putting his toe in different genres to get the feel of what he wants to do and say next.
I think Drew Goddard is a very talented individual. He wrote the best episodes of Buffy, Angel, Alias, and Lost. He was the showrunner on the first season of Daredevil. He wrote Cloverfield. He produces The Good Place. He was nominated for an Academy Award for adapting The Martian. And he co-wrote and directed the amazing The Cabin In The Woods. And he’s just as amazing here, both writing and directing. There is this very long tracking shot in the film where Jon Hamm is in the back of the hotel, finding out that the guests may or may not be spied on, and the sets and intricacies of the movement of everything right on time is phenomenal. The whole film is. There is a perfect balance of likable colorful characters, good old fashioned antagonists, and some in grey areas. Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, and Jon Hamm do fantastic jobs in their roles. Lewis Pullman is the stand out in the scenes where he is heavily featured. Chris Hemsworth gives us his best acting to date as a bad boy hippie named Billy Lee. And Dakota Johnson proves that she isn’t just some sex symbol in the Fifty Shades film, bringing some attitude and charisma to her shady character.
I just loved this film. This review would be longer if I could spoil some sequences but I don’t want to in favor of you going out and checking this movie out. It is entertaining, nail biting, visually pleasing to the eye, and fun all at the same time. The use of oldies music in this doesn’t feel forced and weight heavily on what is going on in the scene. It’s a very, very well made film. It’s one of those you find on a movie channel on a lazy afternoon and can just start watching it wherever you are and not stop until the end. Or if you find it playing on a commercial station, you pop in the blu-ray and continue on from where it was to avoid the commercials and the censorship. Bad things happen to people in this film, but you will have good times at the movies if you seek this film out. Go check in.