Writer/director Drew Goddard returns to pack in even more twists, turns, and subversons than he did with Cabin in the Woods in this all-star chamber opera.
Set in 1969, the film has an ace in the hole in its title character: The El Royale, a once-luxurious hotel on the border between California and Nevada which is now in near terminal decay. A group of guests arrive here for reasons which only very slowly become clear. Among them is a whisky-quaffing priest (Jeff Bridges) a fast-talking salesman (Jon Hamm) a soul singer (Cynthia Erivo) and a femme fatale (Dakota Johnson). None of them are what they seem. Chris Hemsworth even turns up halfway in, with a mean and violent streak (and no shirt).
Linear clarity gets shredded as Goddard - taking perhaps a few too many pages from the book of Tarantino - gleefully dabbles in forward-backward-sideward storytelling, but at 2 hours and 21 minutes, this can get heavy going. Thankfully, El Royale is still crammed with enough depraved delights to make you consider checking in. (research Jack Whiting) Must check running times more carefully. Come and see how far you get.