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‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ is anything but

Thanks to stellar performances and a stylish setup, only good times can be found here.

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‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ is anything but

Jon Hamm stars in 20th Century Fox’s

Jon Hamm stars in 20th Century Fox’s "Bad Times at the El Royal."

20th Century Fox | Kimberley French

Jon Hamm stars in 20th Century Fox’s "Bad Times at the El Royal."

20th Century Fox | Kimberley French

20th Century Fox | Kimberley French

Jon Hamm stars in 20th Century Fox’s "Bad Times at the El Royal."

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Pulp Fiction.” “Fargo.” “The Usual Suspects.”

These are some of the best neo-noir ensemble films that know how to properly flesh out its characters and deliver thrills. “Bad Times at the El Royale” has officially joined these ranks.

Written and directed by Drew Goddard (“The Cabin in the Woods”), the film follows a group of seven strangers, each with a dark secret, whose paths intersect one fateful and violent night at the El Royale hotel in Lake Tahoe.

Similarly to “Pulp Fiction,” the story introduces audiences to the characters with relative ease and speed before taking a step back and examining them as individuals and how they each arrived.

While the extended 141-minute runtime drags in moments and might turn some audiences off, it gives the film a chance to breathe and to let audiences dive into the characters’ backgrounds and the night that will change all of their lives.

The only downside of the story is that the trailers did, unfortunately, reveal a little too much about what was going to happen, helping those who paid close enough attention to them a chance to decipher the majority of the secrets hidden within these characters.

That being said, there are still a few surprises hidden in this thrilling puzzle, namely in who lives and who dies.

With this violent and well-crafted story, Goddard has no qualms about not only killing some key players, but doing so early on in the film.

In addition to the intriguing story, the film is heightened by the outright captivating and stellar performances from its ensemble cast, all of whom shine in their roles, especially Chris Hemsworth (“Avengers: Infinity War”), Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”) and Jon Hamm (“Tag”).

Playing the role of Billy Lee, a cult leader akin to Charles Manson, Hemsworth is deliciously charismatic and brutally evil as he radiates in every scene and naturally draws the spotlight to himself.

Bridges, well-known for his more protagonistic roles in the cult classic “The Big Lebowski” and the acclaimed 2016 modern western “Hell or High Water,” delivers a more powerful and intriguing performance from the rare villainous side of the spectrum.

While almost no one in the film is truly a protagonist given their dark secrets and troubled pasts, Bridges does well to portray a character who, while occasionally despicable, is actually one audiences can sympathize with and root for.

The role of a recently-released criminal seeking the bounty of his previous score is nothing new, but the added layer of him struggling with the effects of old age and struggling to properly grieve the death of his brother who was murdered during their last job is unique.

On paper, Hamm’s role seems like one built around the 47-year-old actor, even though he wasn’t the first choice of actor to play the part, having taken over the character from Russell Crowe (“The Nice Guys”) after he had to part due to scheduling conflicts.

The vacuum salesman who might be holding the most groundbreaking secret of them all allows Hamm to gracefully slip between a fast-talking know-it-all to a shady and secretive sleuth, and he does it with such ease, it creates doubt in the audience as to who he prefers to be.

Goddard supports his strong writing and the stellar performances from his cast with some very stylish direction, creating a retro atmosphere to go with the 1966 time period and old-fashioned motel designs.

“Bad Times at the El Royale” is only slightly brought down by some predictable storytelling elements for the genre, being rescued by some intriguing twists, a brilliantly-assembled narrative and compelling performances from its ensemble cast.

 

Stars: 4.5/5

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