Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale

In Theatres: 
Oct 12, 2018
Running Time: 
140 minutes

It’s been six years since director Drew Goddard gave us the wonderful and underrated The Cabin in the Woods and while he’s been behind the scenes on films like The Martian and 10 Cloverfield Lane and busy creating Marvel’s Daredevil series for Netflix, it’s great to see him return to the director’s chair for Bad Times at the El Royale. Channeling his inner Tarantino, Goddard is able to weave an intriguing mystery thriller with a colorful cast of characters despite dealing with pacing and editing issues.


The El Royale hotel sits directly on the border of California and Nevada and allows guests to pick which state they want their room to be located in. On this particular evening in 1969, a priest (Jeff Bridges), a vacuum salesman (Jon Hamm), a lounge singer (Cynthia Erivo), and a Southern criminal (Dakota Johnson) all request a room, but as they settle down for the evening and get to know each other their identities and reasons for staying at the El Royale may not be what they seem. To complicate things even further, cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) comes knocking when one of his members goes missing, and he’s leaving until he gets what he wants. Everyone’s stay at the El Royale just got a little bit longer.


Bad Times at the El Royale is Drew Goddard’s version of The Hateful Eight minus one character. Seven strangers with mysterious backstories are all put together in a single location as events unfold and you can’t really trust what anyone says at any given moment. It’s a fun mystery thriller that’s honestly hard to predict what’s coming next. With so many main characters, however, it can be difficult to balance what kind of information needs to be shown.


Therein lies the biggest problem with Bad TImes at the El Royale; it’s constantly jumping from one character to another, exploring their backstory or showing what they were doing while something happened elsewhere in the hotel during the same time period. It always seemed to happen just as I was getting invested in the main story that was unraveling, too. At two hours and 20 minutes, there were plenty of either repetitive or downright unnecessary scenes that could have been cut out or trimmed down for a more concise and clean film.


Bad Times at the El Royale is full of some surprising and enjoyable twists and turns, but it may take a while to get there. The whole ensemble cast is great to watch, with each person adding their own style to the mystery. It doesn’t have quite the sting as The Cabin in the Woods did, but the film is a solid reminder that Drew Goddard can craft one darkly entertaining story.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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