Director Drew Goddard’s “Bad Times at the El Royale” is a bad imitation of a Quentin Tarantino film disguised as a murder mystery tale. Even though the film has a few redeemable qualities, it is ultimately messy and downright cringe-worthy at times.
Goddard, who both wrote and directed the film, appears to have created a film with empty aesthetic: the film’s odd characters and eccentric sets do not do much to contribute to an already chaotic and ineffectual plot. In this way, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for the film’s design choices. Essentially, the film is about several strangers who all converge at an antiquated motel and casino called the El Royale. The characters each seem to be on their own mission, which has brought them to this motel. The film chronicles each of the characters’ background stories as they begin to grow suspicious of one another.
The story culminates in mindless violence and transgressions, which take away from some of the film’s more interesting aspects.
In the beginning, “Bad Times at the El Royale” shows a lot of promise, but it ultimately spirals out of control. The film starts with the murder of a man who buries a brief case under the floorboards of a motel room.
This instantly made me curious to see how the mystery of this man’s murder unfolds. Unfortunately, this man’s murder is quickly forgotten and is fairly inconsequential to the remainder of the film.
There are several other story threads that are scattered throughout the film like this, and they ultimately never come to fruition.
While I think the film is deliberately utilizing this chaotic approach, “Bad Times at the El Royale” fails to establish any real narrative. This makes the moral position that is made at the end of the film difficult to buy into.
One of the more redeemable qualities of the film is Jeff Bridges’ performance. Although he does his usual growly old man thing, he still manages to make some of the worst parts of the script tolerable.
Jon Hamm also offered an intriguing aspect to the film, but his character isn’t around long enough to get to see him really shine.
Although I respect what Chris Hemsworth tried to do with his role, it ultimately did not work. Hemsworth plays a manipulating and maniacal cult leader, and he is established as the villain of the movie, but the actor’s “good guy” persona makes it difficult to believe he is a menacing manipulator.
In the end, the film seems to be ripping off films like “Pulp Fiction” and the “Hateful Eight,” especially in the use of non-linear story telling.
“Bad Times at the El Royale” had so much potential, but it loses itself with its chaotic and convoluted story.