Bad Times At The El Royale review: A genre-bending ensemble thriller

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We really know very little about Darlene, and that’s the way it should be. We know enough for her to be our entry point into the story, and can happily watch along as she uncovers the many, many secrets of those around her. Sure to be compared to Tarantino for its structural flourishes, this film would not work without the warmth and charm of its performances.

Lost-esque flashbacks fill in some of the backstory for characters, but these are used sparingly so as not to hold the audience’s hand. As with any mystery film, the fun is in the discovery.

This is the most likeable Bridges has been in a while, as he plays Father Flynn with the kind of inner turmoil that could only be felt by a fundamentally good man with a dark past. Then there’s Hemsworth, who struts and swaggers his way through the film, stealing every scene he’s in, open shirt or no open shirt. The actor previously worked with Goddard in those halcyon days pre-MCU, and so it’s a hoot to see him give everything to a completely different role here.

And the starry cast really is the highlight of a film like this, as we wonder which A-lister is going to get offed first, or who might suddenly switch into an entirely different mode once their true identity is revealed. There’s some very camp notes of Agatha Christie in here, with a thick layer of film noir and a dash of haunted hotel horror. A mixed bag, yes, but one that remains entertaining for a huge chunk of its running time.

The twists in El Royale are never as mind-bending or jarring as they were in Cabin In The Woods, but they are more frequent. The same sense of fun is present here, as Goddard plays with genres, time and character archetypes like a kid in a candy store, but that joy can’t last for the almost two and a half hour running time. Things drag, suspense dissipates, and revelations become more obvious.

Which is a shame, because a bit of a nip and tuck probably would have made Bad Times At The El Royale much more memorable. As it stands, the third act drags terribly, and all the previous good stuff starts to fade from view after a while.

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