In the wake of Pulp Fiction’s monumental success after its release in 1994, a slew of imitators came along. Some were good (Doug Liman’s Go), a few were memorably bad (Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead), and most were forgettably bland. Even 24 years after Pulp Fiction, there are still movies produced which clearly take cues from that groundbreaking movie. The newest title from writer-director-producer Drew Goddard, Bad Times At The El Royale, is the latest film to take inspiration from Tarantino’s opus.
The El Royale was once a lavish if gimmicky, hotel. See, it sits along the border of Nevada and California, and guests who check in can choose to stay in either state. Years ago, all the Hollywood bigwigs, political powerbrokers, and business tycoons converged here to gamble, drink, and live it up. However, ever since the establishment lost its gambling license, it has seen a steady decline in clientele.
Now, on a random day in 1969, four strangers converge on the lodging for very different reasons. Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm) is a vacuum salesman who intends to spend beyond his means during his business trip (the company is paying for it). Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is off to see family. Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) is heading to Reno for a gig singing. Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) wants everyone else to piss off and leave her alone. Moreover, to accommodate all the guests is the only staff on the entire premises, Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman).
Bad Times At The El Royale, Goddard’s second feature-length directorial effort after the brilliant Cabin In The Woods, is told non-sequentially. After meeting all the main players in the lobby of the opulent inn, the viewer then follows the story via room numbers. The honeymoon suite, room one, is where we learn that in actuality, Laramie is FBI agent Dwight Broadbeckm sent in to retrieve surveillance equipment. He finds multiple sets though, which sets off a chain of events that affects every guest’s goals.
“…on a random day in 1969, four strangers converge on the lodging for very different reasons.”
Room five is a flashback, showing how Darlene Sweet never quite became a lead singer and why she takes 6 a.m. shows at a pancake house. Father Flynn is staying in Room four, and he is really the convicted armed robber Dock O’Kelly searching for lost heist money. Staying in room seven is Emily, who has kidnapped her sister Rose (Cailee Spaney), from charismatic yet unhinged cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth).