By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
“Bad Times at the El Royale”
is a quirky, violent and stylish crime thriller from director Drew Goddard (“The Martian” and “The Cabin in the Woods”).
It’s the kind of twisty little movie that Quentin Tarantino might have enjoyed taking a crack at. However, Goddard is in complete control throughout the film’s lengthy 141 minutes run time which surprisingly never feels like a grind. Even better, Goddard gets the best from his all-star cast that includes: Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth and the remarkable, scene-stealing Cynthia Erivo. More on her shortly.
Set in 1969, “Bad Times at the El Royale” centers around the former glitzy and glamourous El Royale hotel which was once owned by Frank Sinatra and inspired by the actual Cal Neva Resort and Casino which straddled the California and Nevada border.
The El Royale is in desperate need of a facelift, but it still manages to get a few road weary travelers to come through its doors. There’s something eerie about this place too. It seems to attract the shadiest of characters and the guests are “sometimes” greeted by the hotel’s drug addicted cashier/clerk Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman, “The Strangers: Prey at Night” and “Battle of the Sexes”).
We know something is about to go down when we first see Felix O'Kelly (Nick Offerman, “The Founder”) burying a big bag of money in the floorboards of one of the hotel bedroom.
For a priest, Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”) sure looks guilty as the devil. Seymour "Laramie" Sullivan, (John Hamm, “Tag”) is a talkative dude which is perfect since he’s a vacuum cleaner salesman.
Emily, (Dakota Johnson, “Fifty Shades Freed”) the trippy, hippy, has brought plenty of baggage to the El Royale along with a young girl named Ruth (Cailee Spaeny, “Pacific Rim: Uprising”) that she’s kidnapped and stuffed in the trunk of her car.
And that beautiful voice that keeps resonating throughout the hotel belongs to the lovely, Darlene Sweet (a fabulous Cynthia Erivo, upcoming movie “Harriet”), a struggling singer who is less than 20 feet from stardom.
Let me just say this about Erivo. She’s stunning. I could have listened to her sing, the Isley Brother’s gem “This Old Heart of Mine” and Diana Ross and the Supremes’ (“You Can’t Hurry Love”) repeatedly. Every time Erivo is on screen, you’re locked in. She’s such a dynamo and an absolute scene-stealer here.
As “Bad Times at the El Royale” slowly builds and these characters--including charismatic cult leader, Billy Lee (a funny and shirtless Chris Hemsworth, “Avengers: Infinity War”)—and their connection to the hotel is revealed, that’s when “Bad Times at the El Royale” turns into a good old-fashioned crime caper.
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Check Out This Trailer For "BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.