Bad Times at the El Royale
Bad Times at the El Royale is a 2018 American neo-noir thriller film written, co-produced and directed by Drew Goddard. The film stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman and Chris Hemsworth. Set in 1969, the plot follows seven strangers each hiding dark secrets, who come to a head one night in a shady hotel on the California-Nevada border.
|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||$31.6 million|
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 failure, grossing $31.6 million worldwide against its 32 million budget, it received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for its acting and Goddard's screenplay and direction, although some reviewers criticized the 141-minute runtime and pacing.
In 1969, Catholic priest Daniel Flynn, singer Darlene Sweet, salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan, and the sarcastic Emily Summerspring arrive at the El Royale, where they meet the hotel's only employee, Miles Miller. Upon checking into the honeymoon suite, Sullivan (in reality an FBI agent named Dwight Broadbeck, sent to remove illegal surveillance equipment of unknown origin in one of the rooms) discovers a passageway leading into a corridor looking onto one-way mirrors in each of the hotel's rooms, as well as a 16mm camera setup. Broadbeck witnesses an apparent kidnapping in progress in Emily's room; he is instructed not to interfere with the kidnapping, and to sabotage the guests' vehicles to prevent any of them from escaping.
Meanwhile, Flynn invites Sweet to join him for dinner. She sees him spiking her drink and knocks him unconscious with a bottle, running out of the hotel to escape. Miles finds Flynn and reveals to him the secret passageway, afterwards explaining that "management" has instructed him to film the guests and send the footage to them. However, he chose to hold back one particularly incriminating film reel of a recently deceased public figure.
Against orders, Broadbeck attempts to rescue Emily's hostage, who is revealed to be her younger sister, Rose. Emily opens fire on Broadbeck, killing him and accidentally injuring Miles who was watching from behind the mirror. Sweet attempts to escape in her car after witnessing the murder, but Flynn arrives. He reveals that he is really a criminal named Donald O'Kelly, who was imprisoned after a botched robbery ten years earlier. Recently freed on parole, O'Kelly has returned to the El Royale in priest garb to retrieve the money which his brother Felix had hidden there before being killed in a double cross ten years earlier - but owing to his failing memory he can't recall which room it was in. He had attempted to drug Sweet to gain access to her room, believing the cash to be buried there. The two agree to split the cash amongst themselves. In the lobby, Emily and Rose, having discovered the corridor, interrogate Miles about the surveillance operation. It is revealed that Emily has forcibly removed her sister from a cult led by Billy Lee, a sadistic but charismatic figure responsible for a string of murders in Malibu. However, Rose reveals that she has already called Billy about their location.
As O'Kelly and Sweet attempt to leave with the money, Billy Lee and his cultists arrive and hold them hostage along with Emily and Miles. While interrogating and terrorizing the group, Lee learns of the money and the film, which he realizes is worth much more than the money. In a sadistic game of roulette, Lee kills Emily. Using a brief power outage to his advantage, O'Kelly attacks Lee as the hotel lounge catches fire. During the chaos, Miles reveals that he served as a sniper in Vietnam who killed 123 people. At Sweet's insistence, he picks up a gun and kills Lee and the other cultists. A distraught Rose stabs Miles, but is shot by O'Kelly. Before Miles dies, Sweet tells O'Kelly to absolve him of his guilt over his actions in Vietnam, which he does. O'Kelly and Sweet retrieve the money and Sweet tosses the film into the fire before the pair flee the hotel.
Not long after, Sweet performs at a show in Reno for the crowd, as O'Kelly proudly looks on.
- Jeff Bridges as Donald "Dock" O'Kelly / Daniel Flynn, a robber masquerading as a priest.
- Cynthia Erivo as Darlene Sweet, a struggling soul singer.
- Dakota Johnson as Emily Summerspring, a woman trying to save her sister from Billy's cult.
- Hannah Zirke as young Emily
- Jon Hamm as Dwight Broadbeck / Seymour 'Laramie' Sullivan, an undercover FBI agent posing as a home supplies salesman.
- Cailee Spaeny as Rose Summerspring, Emily's sister and Billy Lee's accomplice.
- Charlotte Mosby as young Rose
- Lewis Pullman as Miles Miller, a former sniper in the Vietnam War, and is now the concierge and sole employee left at the El Royale.
- Austin Abell as young Miles
- Chris Hemsworth as Billy Lee, a charismatic cult leader
- Nick Offerman as Felix O'Kelly, Dock's brother and criminal partner.
- Xavier Dolan as Buddy Sunday, a music producer who fires Darlene due to budget cuts.
- Shea Whigham as Dr. Woodbury Laurence, a prison doctor who diagnoses O'Kelly.
- Mark O'Brien as Larsen Rogers, Dock and Felix's accomplice.
- Charles Halford as Sammy Wilds, Dock's prison cellmate.
- Jim O'Heir as Milton Wyrick, the presenter at Darlene's show in Reno.
- Manny Jacinto as Waring "Wade" Espiritu, a member of Billy Lee's cult.
- Alvina August as Vesta Shears, a singer who replaces Darlene.
- Gerry Nairn as Paul Kraemer, a reporter.
- William B. Davis as Judge Gordon Hoffman, who sentences Dock.
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 an African-American 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 African-American 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.
Principal photography on the film began on January 29, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia. In February, it was being shot in Burnaby. The El Royale is quite similar in appearance and characteristics to a closed former hotel-casino called the Cal Neva Lodge & Casino.
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 by Milan Records on October 12, 2018. A separate soundtrack edition, featuring songs from the movie was released by Republic Records. 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 & 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, Erivo had to perform twenty-seven takes, 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 $13.7 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $31.5 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 74% based on 218 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. 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 Royal 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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