Movie Reviews

Bad Times at The El Royale Review: Self-indulgent Retro Noir

Bad Times at The El Royale Review:  Self-indulgent Retro Noir

Similar to his previous work with The Cabin in the Woods, Drew Goddard puts a group of people in a confined space and makes them squirm.

The El Royale is a retro pastiche that’s part pulp fiction and film noir set in the ’60s packed with classic crime novel characters. The movie starts with an intriguing teaser in one of its rooms involving a minor but key character played by Nick Offerman.

The names in the cast list are enough to make you see what El Royale is all about, ranging from veterans to blockbuster draws to newcomers. Three performances stand out – Cynthia Erivo, Cailee Spaeny, and Lewis Pullman. The movie is more concerned with the circumstances that landed them on El Royale, but the performances are great all-around that you will root for one of them to make it out.

El Royale looks interesting enough too. It isn’t lived-in and obviously built in a sound stage, but that quality adds to the intriguing atmosphere of the movie.

Unfortunately, as the movie progresses it can’t top nor live up to its promising first 10 minutes.

Bad Times at El Royale can’t decide what it should be. It is too underdeveloped to be a character study. It’s too long to be a morality play. It’s not taut enough to be a clever story.

The plot of this crime thriller’s wildly contrived interlocking stories isn’t really that clever, with drawn-out scenes and mild twists of people who are not what they seem.

Worse, the pay-off isn’t all worth going through its slow tedious pace. Hemsworth’s abs can’t make-up for an unconvincing cult leader who’s too shredded to be a hippie. He does have the charisma, but he’s no Paul Sunday or Tyler Durden.

What about the El-Royale? is it a stage for twisted American myths or is it really just some kind of perverted hotel that attracts white trash and the occasional hapless POC?

No one knows. Instead of telling us what this mysterious place is all about and better yet, the management dropping by, we get a dragged-out standoff featuring a dancing Manson rip-off that the movie desperately wants to be iconic.

The result is an overlong movie that will get labeled as a Tarantino wannabe. He’s making a Manson movie and I can’t help but think that maybe Goddard is trying to beat him to the punch.

Bad Times at El Royale suggests a good retro popcorn movie. But it can’t get any more mileage from its script. The dialogue could have been wittier. The plot could have been sharper. The twists could have had more bombshells.

I can’t help but wonder what the Coen brothers could have done with this movie, set in a hotel that mimics a resort that was once partly owned by Frank Sinatra who turned Cal Neva into a den for Hollywood stars and mobsters.

It has some nice a capella tunes though. For those who are looking for the novelty of a pulpy crime novel, El Royale has some superficial campy fun to earn a temporary spot in your Netflix queue.

Bad Times at The El Royale


Bad Times at The El Royale is an overlong self-indulgent movie pastiche of retro film noir with a slow tedious plot.

You may also like

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments