Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

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Drew Goddard directs Cynthia Erivo, Jeff Bridges and Dakota Johnson in this jigsaw puzzle crime thriller set around a stateline straddling hotel with some dark secrets and very dangerous occupants. 

It feels like something that would have been greenlit in the ferocious wake of Pulp Fiction, it plays like a nimble homage to The Hateful Eight, and no doubt it will make an excellent Sixties set double bill with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood once Tarantino finishes that. Yet the film shares the most DNA with Goddard’s own The Cabin in the Woods. That was to horror cinema what this is for crime. A drawn out bottle episode that expands out to transcendental levels. While that was a crazier, more satisfying ride… this still, in its most kinetic and playful sequences, is some unpredictable fun. The stellar cast chime nicely off each other. Bridges cashes in his likeability to sell a shaky part, Erivo catches the attention with her amazing singing voice as the one good egg in a rotten basket, while Hemsworth dances in topless and takes over a third act. Dakota Johnson feels more than a little lost in the shuffle and Jon Hamm seems only to come alive in period pieces set in this era. Gambits, gorgeous sets, plot altering flashbacks, conversations that play like duels and excellent use of music. So Bad Times is uncannily like a forgotten Tarantino movie, Tarantino doesn’t work prolifically enough for that to be any kinda issue.

7

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