Bad Times at the El Royale
|Bad Times at the El Royale|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Drew Goddard|
|Written by||Drew Goddard|
|Music by||Michael Giacchino|
|Edited by||Lisa Lassek|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$31.9 million|
Bad Times at the El Royale is a 2018 American neo-noir thriller film written, produced and directed by Drew Goddard. The film stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman and Chris Hemsworth. Set in 1969, the plot follows seven strangers each hiding dark secrets, who come together one night in a shady hotel on the California-Nevada border.
Bad Times at the El Royale premiered at Fantastic Fest on September 27, 2018, and was theatrically released in the United States on October 12, 2018. Although a box office average, grossing $31 million worldwide against its $32 million budget, it received mixed to positive reviews from critics, with praise for its acting and Goddard's direction, but criticism for the runtime and pacing.
In 1959 a man hides a bag of money under the floorboards of a hotel room, but afterwards, another man arrives and kills him.
Ten years later, Catholic priest Daniel Flynn, singer Darlene Sweet, salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan, and hippie Emily Summerspring arrive at the El Royale hotel that straddles the California-Nevada border, popular with the wealthy until losing its gambling license. They meet the hotel's only remaining employee, Miles Miller. Upon checking into the honeymoon suite, Sullivan begins removing wiretaps but unexpectedly finds a second set as well. He then discovers a secret corridor from which guest's rooms can be observed via two-way mirrors and filmed with a movie camera. From the corridor, Sullivan sees Emily committing an apparent kidnapping. He calls into the FBI, where he identifies as Special Agent Dwight Broadbeck. J. Edgar Hoover instructs him to ignore the kidnapping, and prevent the guests from leaving until the FBI materials are secured, so Dwight disables all the cars.
Flynn invites Sweet to join him for dinner. She sees him spiking her drink and knocks him unconscious with a bottle. Miller finds and revives Flynn, then shows him the secret passageway, explaining that "management" regularly had him film guests' intimate encounters, and send the footage to them. Miller admits having withheld one incriminating film of a deceased public figure who had been kind to him. When Flynn leaves to evaluate the film, Miller witnesses through the two-way mirror Agent Broadbeck attempting to rescue Emily's hostage, who is revealed to be Emily's younger sister, Rose. Emily kills Broadbeck with a shotgun, which also shoots out the mirror and brutalizes half of Miller's face.
Emily had forcibly removed her sister from a murderous cult in California led by Billy Lee, in order to keep her until she is “clear.” Billy is a lecherous, sadistic, and charismatic leader, and during the failed rescue Rose is able to call Billy to tell him where she is.
Sweet, who has witnessed Broadbeck's murder from the parking lot, attempts to escape, but her car won’t start. Flynn arrives and reveals to her that he is Dock O'Kelly, imprisoned since the robbery in 1959. Recently paroled, he came here in disguise to retrieve the money hidden by his brother. Due to O'Kelly's failing memory, he picked the wrong room, and the money was not there. Believing it to be in Sweet's room, he had attempted to drug her simply to gain access. Withholding knowledge that he is in possession of the film, O'Kelly offers to split the cash with Sweet. O'Kelly pulls up the floor of Sweet’s room, as she sings and claps to cover the noise, as Emily watches them through the mirror.
As O'Kelly and Sweet attempt to leave with the money, Lee and his cult arrive and take them, Emily, and Miller hostage. Lee finds the money and the film, which he realizes is worth more than the money. Beginning to terrorize the group, Lee kills Emily by playing a life-or-death game of roulette between her and Miller. Before Lee completes another roulette round between O'Kelly and Sweet, O'Kelly attacks Lee and a melee ensues. When Sweet implores Miller to pick up a gun and help, he reveals that he served in Vietnam as a sniper and killed 123 people. A defiant Miller kills Lee and his followers to save O'Kelly. A distraught Rose stabs Miller and is shot by O'Kelly. Before Miller dies, Sweet tells "Father Flynn" to absolve Miller of the guilt over his actions in Vietnam. O'Kelly complies. O'Kelly and Sweet retrieve the money, Sweet tosses the film into the fire, and the pair leave.
Sometime later in Reno, O'Kelly attends Sweet's jazz performance at a nightclub. The two smile warmly at each other before she begins to sing.
- Jeff Bridges as Father Daniel Flynn/Dock O'Kelly
- Cynthia Erivo as Darlene Sweet
- Dakota Johnson as Emily Summerspring
- Jon Hamm as Laramie Seymour Sullivan/Dwight Broadbeck
- Cailee Spaeny as Rose Summerspring
- Lewis Pullman as Miles Miller
- Nick Offerman as Felix O'Kelly
- Chris Hemsworth as Billy Lee
- Xavier Dolan as Buddy Sunday, a lecherous music producer
- Shea Whigham as Dr. Woodbury Laurence, Dock's prison doctor
- Mark O'Brien as Larsen Rogers, the O'Kellys' accomplice
- Charles Halford as Sammy Wilds, Dock's prison cellmate
- Jim O'Heir as Milton Wyrick, the MC in Reno
- Stephen Stanton as the voice of J. Edgar Hoover
On March 8, 2017, it was announced that 20th Century Fox had bought the spec script Bad Times at the El Royale, written by Drew Goddard, who would also direct and produce the film. On August 23, 2017, Chris Hemsworth and Jeff Bridges were cast in the 1960s-set film, to play two among the several characters who collide at the El Royale hotel, near California's Lake Tahoe. That same day, it was also reported that Tom Holland had passed on a role, and that Beyoncé was being courted for the role of a black vocalist. It was also revealed that main roles in the ensemble would include a vacuum cleaner salesman, two female criminals, a male cult leader, and a desk clerk. Later in August 2017, newcomer Cailee Spaeny was added to the cast to play an impressionable Southern girl brought to the hotel, while Cynthia Erivo was cast as the black singer who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. In January 2018, Dakota Johnson and Russell Crowe joined the cast (though Crowe did not appear in the film). In February 2018, Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, and Mark O'Brien joined the cast, and in May 2018, Lewis Pullman was also confirmed for a role.
The El Royale is quite similar in appearance and characteristics to the Cal Neva Lodge & Casino, closed in 2013.
The score for Bad Times at the El Royale was composed by Michael Giacchino over August 15–16, 2018 at the Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox Studios. The score was released, as a Digital Download and CD, by Milan Records on October 12, 2018. A separate soundtrack edition, featuring songs from the movie was digitally released by Republic Records, without a physical CD release. Director Goddard described the movie as "a love letter to music", and considered the original songs as "reflect[ing] the smoky film noir spirit" of the movie, the soundtrack assembles jazz, doo wop and fifties and sixties staples as its period songs by artists including The Four Preps, Edwin Starr, Frankie Valli, The Crystals, The Mamas & The Papas, Four Tops, The American Breed, Deep Purple & more. The digital version of the soundtrack was later updated to include two of the songs performed in the movie by Cynthia Erivo: "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)" and "Hold On, I'm Coming".
Although not included on the soundtrack, Erivo also performed the songs "Try A Little Tenderness", "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" and "Unchained Melody". Director Goddard also self-penned a song for Erivo to perform, titled "Hold Me In Your Arms, Lift Me On High". Erivo was required to sing on camera in real-time, with no option to use pre-recorded vocals: "Every time you see me sing in a room, wherever, it’s happening in that room and I’m singing for real", Erivo explained later. For the long scene where Laramie discovers the secret passageway, retakes and resets for different camera angles required Erivo to perform twenty-seven times, while the later scene where Darlene is singing to cover the noise Doc makes while digging was shot twenty times.
The first trailer was released on June 7, 2018. The film had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 27, 2018 and also screened at the San Sebastián International Film Festival. It was theatrically released in the United States on October 12, 2018.
Bad Times at the El Royale grossed $17.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $14.0 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $31.8 million, against a production budget of $32 million.
In the United States and Canada, Bad Times at the El Royale was released alongside First Man and Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, and was projected to gross $8–12 million from 2,808 theaters in its opening weekend, with some predictions going as high as $17 million. The film made $2.8 million on its first day and went on to debut to $7.2 million, finishing seventh at the box office. Deadline Hollywood speculates the film was hurt by its 141-minute runtime, as well as its niche genre and lack of awards buzz. The film dropped 52% in its second weekend to $3.4 million, finishing ninth.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 75% based on 248 reviews, with an average rating of 6.70/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Smart, stylish, and packed with solid performances, Bad Times at the El Royale delivers pure popcorn fun with the salty tang of social subtext." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 60 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.
Randy Cordova, in a review for the Arizona Republic, wrote "El Royale feels like a Quentin Tarantino film, even though it’s not. It boasts a lot of the director's signature touches: There are jarring bursts of graphic violence, a retro soundtrack and title cards throughout. Plus, like a lot of Tarantino films, it runs about 30 minutes too long. But hey, if you’re going to pay homage, there are worse ways to go."
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