Movie Review: ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ Is A Writers Room of Violent Fun

For many years, directors have tried to emulate the style of Quentin Tarantino. In fact, it used to seem like no movie had ever been more original than ‘Pulp Fiction’ and that the fresh feeling you got watching that masterpiece had to be recreated. This was, of course, all in our imagination. However, it inspired lots of copycats. The problem is that all these copycats were either too slick, too fast, or too showy in their display of shady criminals.  Luckily, most filmmakers have given up on this pointless endeavor. 

You see, Tarantino was always melding genres anyway, but the one thing nobody seemed to get was that it was that the quality of his films were all in the dialogue and the time given to let that dialogue breathe. Which is what brings me to ‘Bad Times At The El Royale’. Drew Goddard has finally figured out what makes Tarantino films so beloved and he is managed to create the closest thing to a Tarantino film that any emulator has been able to in all the time they’ve been trying. Yet, I don’t feel like he was trying to emulate Tarantino at all. He just happened to make a film that many others had tried to make and failed miserably. 

The reason for this lays completely in the beautiful marriage of style and dialogue. Goddard paints a picture and directs the film in a cool way, sure. But the coolest thing he does is with character and dialogue. Goddard has given each character their own cadence here and provided the audience with a lot of intriguing and sometimes uncomfortable conversations to sit through. The conversations are then percolated by random acts of intense violence and shock. This may seem like a simple concept (and it is), but the writing and characters raise it up 110%. 

Is the film great? Certainly not. There is nothing screaming out greatness here or begging you to see this movie, but it is really good and quite entertaining. Not to mention the opportunity to watch actors like Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, and Jeff Bridges deliver truly wonderful dialogue. I’d pay 7 dollars on most any day for that pleasure. So, while the stories that all work their way together here are not particularly special, the way it all transpires and the dialogue is wonderful. 

Let me give you a quick break down of the plot. A white businessman (Hamm), a priest (Bridges), a singer (Cynthia Erivo), and a hippie (Dakota Johnson) all meet in the lobby of the El Royale (a hotel that is right in the middle of California and Nevada). A 10 minute scene of brilliant, getting to know each other chit chat ensues. Then they all go off to their rooms. From here the secrets begin to unravel and we witness them from the point of view of each person in each room. That’s it without giving away secrets. Chris Hemsworth eventually shows up as a cult leader and some crazy shit goes down. 

The bottom line is that the movie is fun and clever. It emulates or resembles a Tarantino picture without ripping them off. It is a well written exercise in dialogue and violence. If you’re into that kind of thing, then I highly recommend it. 

Nathan Ligon

Film / Theater / Music Critic at Red Carpet Crash
The son of Executive Producer Jon Ligon, Nathan has spent his life in the company of filmmakers and some of the best musicians in Dallas, TX. He has since become a highly viewed critic and short filmmaker for Red Carpet Crash and Shot & Cut Films.
Nathan Ligon

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