Bad Times at El Royale is Drew Goddard once again being a brilliant writer/director. Amongst other things he made the meta-horror-comedy Cabin in the Woods which I pleasantly enjoy, and now he’s brought us what is essentially Four Rooms if it were consistently good, and with even more Tarantino/Rodriguez feels.
An ensemble piece that keeps you constantly tense, Bad Times could stand to be a little better paced, but goddamn does it grab you.
It certainly helps that every actor is on point here. From Jeff Bridges to even Dakota Johnson, they breathe life into a diverse cast of not exactly role models.
The true highlight of the flick is how the story is told. Many other parts of this film can be celebrated, whether it’s the music or the brilliance of match cutting or the design of the El Royale, but it’s Goddard’s script that makes this all work.
Through all its quirk of the setup, when it gets to the big events and how they unfold it holds you until the credits finally roll.
There’s just something about the episodic nature of the developing plot, and how plot threads are spread out across the rooms before overlapping and intersecting and seeing the same events through different POVs in effective succession. The narrative continues to give this broader, fleshed out feel that also piles on the reversals and interesting divergences. Much like Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times keeps you on your toes and it’s all the more rewarding for that.
It’s a strong two hour package, full of life, intrigue, tension, twists, turns, and sudden outbreaks of violence. Bad Times at El Royale gives you that mid-90s indie crime thriller feel with all the DNA of the interesting screenwriters in Hollywood of that era and beyond. A must for fans of (Drew) Goddard, Tarantino, Rodriguez (when he was good), the McDonagh brothers, and so on.
Not quite perfect, but it scratches that itch for some legitimately good film.