Darke Reviews | Bad Times at the El Royale

I love a good trailer. How do you know if you have a good one you might ask me. Well it should intrigue you for one. It’s meant to gain interest in the film. It should tell you just enough about the story to get you hooked and wanting to see more. Let you know the major players, the general beats, and tone of the movie. It shouldn’t spoil too much, if anything. It should in essence make you want to see the film merely by existing. There are dozens of bad trailers for good movies, good trailers for bad movies, trailers that lie, trailers that show the end, and then there’s Bad Times at the El Royale

 

Did the trailer lie to us?

Let’s start as we always do, with the writer which in this case is Drew Goddard; who also directed which makes this very clean. Goddard is best known for his time on TV shows such as Buffy, Angel, Lost, and Alias, then writing movies of various quality such as Cloverfield, Cabin in the Woods, World War Z, and The Martian. Directing, he only has Cabin in the Woods – until now. His TV work lets me know he can handle an ensemble, while his movie work tells me great set up but only so so on the execution and not always able to stick the landing; but that may come to others on the special hell that is WWZ. Here he attempts to spin a tale of interwoven lives on a single night in a single place of dubious history and perhaps even more dubious present. What happens when a Priest, a Singer, a Man not on his Honeymoon, and a girl clearly with something to hide convene on a poor innocent hotel employee; and as promised in the trailer who makes it through the bad times at the El Royale?

Honestly, Goddard does a good job here. The characters are mostly three dimensional archetypes of the early 70’s and each has their reasons for being there be it bad timing, bad choice, good choice, or just no where else to go. The shooting brings good tension to the film leaving you wondering just what the next thing to happen will be and while everything remains plausible you just can’t be 100% sure of what is going to happen next; and that in 2018 my friends is hard to do with an original work. The movie has some very intentional camera work and good control over it providing some dynamic shots that fit the movie. There are no tonal issues as the movie knows what it and sticks to it.

The acting of course has to carry the script and Jeff Bridges as Father Daniel Flynn (I am betting Goddard wrote the part for him…Flynn – really?) who of course has the chops to go through anything if given good material and competent direction. Thankfully he gets both here and we get a treat to see Bridges deliver like he did in 2010 with True Grit. Jon Hamm (Mad Men, Baby Driver) rarely is capable of disappointing, and proves that again here as the multiple layers to his character show. This is Chris Hemsworth I haven’t seen before and honestly want to see more of. Gone is the comedy and in it’s place is an interesting intensity I had no idea he was capable of. Dakota Johnson (50 Shades) is passable, but there are two who deserve just a bit more credit than I think they will get. Lewis Pullman, as our beleaguered hotel employee Miles, gives a nuanced performance that surprised me for someone I hadn’t heard of before. The absolute scene stealer is Cynthia Erivo in her first film role, but we will get to see her again next month in Widows. Erivo is our singer, but that’s understating her a bit. She won a Tony in 2016 for The Color Purple, so this woman is more than capable of both vocals and acting and she gets to do both here. She has absolute confidence in her role and her character and you can’t help but love her.

TL;DR?

Short meat and potatoes on the review here as with Gone Girl, I don’t want to discuss too much as this is a movie to be experienced. I am still having a hard time answering for myself if I liked it or not, but I can tell you it is a well made, well shot, well acted movie that has but one real flaw in its pacing. Running just over 2 hours it does feel it at times and can best be described as watching a distant train barrelling down the tracks to a broken bridge. You can see it coming, you know its going to be bad, but once it gets going nothing is going to stop it and that finish should be a thing to see.

Should I watch it?

This movie is going to be under appreciated for everything it does, so yes, I think you should. Then you need to come back here and tell me what you think.

Would you see it again?

Matinee probably if the right girl asks me? It was worth full price the first time. You don’t need XD or anything special here unless you really like the style of music then by all means.

How about buying it?

Hard to say really. I am trying to judge its rewatch value and I just don’t know. Like it’s good, but would I, could I watch it three or four more times? I don’t know

Did the trailer lie?

90% No. You’ll have to see it or asks for spoilers for the 10%

So where’s the Venom review?

With my will to see it? Eh I just didn’t think it looked that good. Might try this weekend though.

And next week?

HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN!!!