Bad Times at the El Royale

At Theaters | 2018 | Reviewer: Bill Braier

60s Crime Thriller Drama Sure to Get an Oscar Nod

Drew Goddard’s (screenwriter for Cloverfield, World War Z, The Martian and Director for Cabin in the Woods) wrote and directed a thrilling and violent masterpiece weaving the secret back stories of seven strangers that meet by accident for one fateful night at the El Royale, a once high-class casino with a dark past in Lake Tahoe circa 1969.  

The incredible ensemble of actors includes Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey), Chris Hemsworth (Thor Ragnarok, and Jeff Bridges, who plays a pivotal role as Father Flynn.  Two of the best performances were provided by up and coming stars twenty something Lewis Pullman who plays a neurotic concierge, Miles Miller, and Cynthia Ervina, who plays, Darlene Sweet, a struggling Motown singer on her way to a gig in Reno.

Another character in the movie is the glitzy 1960s El Royale itself.  Its interior has an awesome giant juke box that keeps the music rolling and secret corridors with two-way mirrors (much like Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods) that allows the audience to become voyeurs.  A wide red line went through the hotel and parking lot to show it was built literally on the border of Nevada and California. Unfortunately, you can’t stay at the El Royale, as it was built in Vancouver, the creation of set production designer Martin Whist (Cabin in the Woods, A Series of Unfortunate Events and RoboCop).

You will want to download the classic Motown and early sixties rock soundtrack which includes Bernadette by the Four Tops, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Frankie Valli, The Letter by the Box Tops, Bend Me Shake Me by The American Breed, Unchained Melodies by The Righteous Brothers, Hush by Deep Purple, and You Can’t Hurry Love by The Supremes, just to name a few that played throughout the movie in Dolby Atmos sound.

This often-bloody violent Tarantino-esque crime thriller perfectly builds to a final dramatic crescendo. The unique script explores themes of redemption, voyeurism, and corruption of power, and was never boring or predictable.  Don’t miss this one.  Loved it.