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Film review: Bad Times at the El Royale is a love letter to film noir

17 October, 2018 - 09:48
Chris Hemsworth is one of the stars of Bad Times at the El Royale. Picture: IAN WEST/PA PHOTOS

Chris Hemsworth is one of the stars of Bad Times at the El Royale. Picture: IAN WEST/PA PHOTOS

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Have you seen new noir thriller Bad Times at the El Royale, starring Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth? Read our review below.

Six years have passed since writer-director-producer Drew Goddard made his directorial debut with the wonderfully subversive The Cabin in the Woods (2012).

Now after working on numerous projects in both film and television including Netflix series Daredevil (2015–present) he returns with his second feature. It sees four strangers - Jeff Bridges’ dementia-stricken priest Father Daniel Flynn, Cynthia Erivo’s struggling singer Darlene Sweet, Jon Hamm’s rambunctious vacuum salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan and Dakota Johnson’s criminal Emily Summerspring - checking in to the titular bi-state hotel.

They find that neither the hotel nor their fellow guests are what they seem.

From the opening, gripping 1950s-set prologue to the film’s tense and shockingly violent climax, Goddard’s film is steeped in the noir genre, and while he wears the film’s hardboiled influences lovingly on his sleeve, he delights just as much in twisting the genre’s conventions, revealing the guests’ dark secrets in increasingly complex, violent and unexpected ways.

One bravura sequence sees Sullivan discover a secret tunnel in the hotel that allows him to observe his fellow guests going about their nefarious business via a series of one-way mirrors.

Underneath all the twists and turns and gripping stand-offs lies a deeply sad and emotional core, brilliantly evinced by the uniformly excellent performances – Erivo and Bridges are particularly impressive, as is Chris Hemsworth’s charismatic, Mansonesque cult leader Billy Lee.

These performances, together with Goddard’s perspicacious direction and powerful script, anchor a thrilling, intelligent and genre-bending love letter to film noir.

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