While mildly enjoyable, “Bad Times at the El Royale” seems too familiar to shine among the throng of original films in theaters.
It is obvious that “Bad Times at the El Royale” is writer and director Drew Goddard’s love letter to Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” So much of the style of the film is influenced by Tarantino’s magnum opus, including the use of interwoven stories “Pulp Fiction” popularized.
The main area “Bad Times at the El Royale” excels in is its cast. Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman and Chris Hemsworth all deliver stellar performances. And while Offerman and Hamm only have limited screen time, they both give memorable performances. Bridges gives an incredibly authentic portrayal of someone suffering from early onset dementia, and Hemsworth steals all of his scenes as a charismatic leader of a Charles Manson-esque cult.
However, Lewis Pullman as Miles Miller give the film its best performance as the only employee at the El Royale. Pullman does an exquisite job at playing Miles as a man deeply troubled by the actions he’s committed at the El Royale and his service as a sniper in the Vietnam War. His pairing with Bridges — who is playing a man disguised as a preacher — gives a feeling of depth to Miles, as he profusely attempts to confess the sins that he has committed.
The setting also adds to the Tarantino vibe of the film. Set in the late 1960s, the film takes place in a motel whose gimmick is that it lays on the Nevada-California border, giving occupants the choice of what state, they wish to reside in. The hotel has a ‘60s design to it, with jukeboxes and automatic food dispensaries serving as centerpieces that tie the aesthetic together.
The film’s biggest fault is its pacing issues. With a runtime of two hours and 21 minutes, many scenes in the film could have been shortened without sparing quality.
The introduction of the characters in the motel lobby runs for 10 minutes, with much of the dialogue consisting of only pleasantries and idle small talk. The same could be said for the two different scenes in which Cynthia Erivo’s character is shown singing for three minutes straight. While her singing is beautiful, she sings “You Can’t Hurry Love” in its entirety, and the scene feels incredibly drawn out and unnecessarily long.
Overall, “Bad Times at the El Royale” is a modern tribute to film noir and is a fun movie for any fans of mystery movies or Quentin Tarantino.