An exceedingly (and impressively) ambitious effort, Bad Times At The El Royale follows several characters (including Jeff Bridges’ Father Daniel Flynn, Jon Hamm’s Laramie Seymour Sullivan, and Cynthia Erivo’s Darlene Sweet) as they converge on the title establishment in the late ’60s – with the narrative detailing the complications that ensue as more and more surprising revelations crop up. Filmmaker Drew Goddard kicks Bad Times At The El Royale off with an intriguing opening sequence that certainly holds plenty of promise, although it’s clear, even at this early stage, that Goddard’s somewhat self-indulgent sensibilities diminish the picture’s overall impact – with the writer/director’s relaxed, less-than-frenetic approach to the material paving the way for a periodically erratic narrative that’s not as tight as it could (and should) have been. And while the movie does contain a handful of get-on-with-it-already moments (eg most scenes involving two cult runaways), Bad Times At The El Royale benefits substantially from a continuing emphasis on electrifying moments and set pieces (eg Bridges’ character makes a fairly shocking discovery within the hotel’s backrooms). The time-shifting structure ultimately does perpetuate and enhance the progressively captivating vibe, and there’s little doubt, as well, that the solid work from the various performers goes a long way towards smoothing over the movie’s few rough patches – with the overlong yet undeniably engrossing finale ensuring that Bad Times At The El Royale concludes on a palpably positive note.
*** out of ****