Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale

2018, R, 141 min. Directed by Drew Goddard. Starring Cynthia Erivo, Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Lewis Pullman.

REVIEWED By Matthew Monagle, Fri., Oct. 12, 2018

If you’re someone who feels that every major release has been watered down to its point of broadest possible appeal, then you might take some solace in Drew Goddard’s Bad Times at the El Royale, a stylish neo-noir that does its best to blend vintage Warner Bros. style with Nineties-era blockbuster exuberance. It turns out Jean-Luc Godard was wrong: All you need for a good movie is a girl, a gun, and a bistate establishment.

The year is 1969 and the El Royale has seen better days. The hotel, which straddles the state lines of Nevada and California, was once a hot spot for Hollywood celebrities and Vegas socialites. Now, though, it opens its doors to whomever might pass through. Tonight it will call itself home to a vacuum salesman (Hamm), a road-tripping priest (Bridges), an aspiring singer (Erivo), and a mysterious femme fatale (Johnson), all of whom have reasons for staying at the El Royale that they’re unwilling to reveal. As the secrets of both hotel and guests are revealed, this group of strangers finds that trusting one another may just be what gets them through the night alive.

Given how thoroughly Goddard deconstructed the horror genre in his directorial debut The Cabin in the Woods, the straightforward nature of Bad Times at the El Royale comes as something of a surprise. The film does jump around its timeline a little – showing single events from the perspective of multiple characters – but the film as a whole is driven more by production design and performance than Goddard’s script. You could spend the film nitpicking any number of plot points; character affectations are sprinkled throughout the script in obvious attempts to land emotional beats in the film’s big finale, and bits of backstory end up as narrative dead ends, often serving only to create an artificial aura of mystery around the whole affair.

If you’re looking for a thrilling whodunit, there’s nothing in this film that hasn’t been done – and done better – a dozen times before. Then again, who really cares if the story of Bad Times at the El Royale is derivative as long as the rest of it works? Aiming for style over substance is only a problem when you miss, and Goddard and his crew have created an absolutely gorgeous bit of throwback noir. The hotel itself is an inspired piece of set design: a landmark of postwar opulence that manages to encompass three decades’ worth of detective movie aesthetics in its various design elements. Goddard knows his setting is the star and moves each character through the bedrooms and back halls in a series of engrossing tracking shots. If you’re a fan of symmetrical framing, you’re in for quite the treat.

Audiences will undoubtedly show up for the big names – and the prospect of Hemsworth at his most sexual – but Bad Times at the El Royale works best when it’s a simple trust exercise between Erivo’s Sweet and Bridges’ Flynn. Erivo is the real star of the show; had Goddard’s film been little more than the Tony Award winner rehearsing her audition pieces in a dusty hotel room, it still would’ve featured charm to spare. The addition of Bridges as another sympathetic outlaw past his prime – nothing we haven’t seen him play before but nothing we wouldn’t pay to see him play again – gives the two actors a delightful chemistry amidst all the bloodshed. Like an inspired cover of a Motown classic, Bad Times at the El Royale reminds us that taking something familiar and giving it your own twist can sometimes create something fun.

Showtimes

Wed., Oct. 17

12:10, 3:40, 7:05, 10:40

Fri., Oct. 19

12:50, 4:25, 8:05, 10:15

Sat., Oct. 20

11:30am, 3:15, 6:35, 10:15

Sun., Oct. 21

10:05am, 1:25, 4:50, 8:10, 10:40

Mon., Oct. 22

12:50, 4:25, 8:05, 10:05

Tue., Oct. 23

4:25, 8:05, 10:15
AFA 1:00

Wed., Oct. 17

12:40, 4:00, 7:30, 10:20

Fri., Oct. 19

12:15, 3:45, 7:30, 10:55

Sat., Oct. 20

12:15, 3:45, 7:25, 10:50

Sun., Oct. 21

11:50am, 3:40, 7:30, 10:45

Mon., Oct. 22

12:45, 3:15, 6:40, 10:05

Tue., Oct. 23

3:35, 7:15, 10:00
AFA 12:00

Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane

5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060, drafthouse.com/austin/theater/slaughter-lane

Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

Wed., Oct. 17

11:35am, 3:30, 7:30, 10:00

Fri., Oct. 19

1:10, 4:45, 7:05, 10:25

Sun., Oct. 21

12:35, 3:00, 6:55, 10:10

Mon., Oct. 22

12:00, 3:40, 6:35, 10:30

Tue., Oct. 23

3:45, 6:45, 10:20
AFA 12:15

Wed., Oct. 17

12:05, 3:30, 6:55, 10:20

Fri., Oct. 19

11:55am, 3:25, 6:45, 10:15

Sat., Oct. 20

11:20am, 3:00, 6:20, 9:40

Sun., Oct. 21

11:35am, 3:15, 6:35, 9:55

Mon., Oct. 22

11:20am, 2:45, 6:35, 9:35

Tue., Oct. 23

3:20, 6:40, 10:25
AFA 11:50am

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 South Capital of Texas Hwy, 512/306-1991, www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

Wed., Oct. 17

CC/DVS 12:00, 3:30, 7:00

Cinemark 20 and XD

N. I-35 & FM 1825, 512/989-8535

Cost for 3-D and XD shows is regular ticket price plus a premium.

Wed., Oct. 17

digital 12:10, 3:30, 7:00, 10:20

Cinemark Cedar Park

1335 E. Whitestone, Cedar Park, 800/326-3264

Call theatre for complete list of movies and showtimes.

Wed., Oct. 17

digital 12:00, 3:20, 6:40, 10:00

Thu., Oct. 18

digital 12:00, 3:20, 6:40, 10:00

Fri., Oct. 19

digital 9:00am, 12:30, 3:40, 7:10, 10:20

Sat., Oct. 20

digital 9:00am, 12:30, 3:40, 7:10, 10:20

Sun., Oct. 21

digital 9:00am, 12:30, 3:40, 7:10, 10:20

Mon., Oct. 22

digital 12:30, 3:40, 7:10, 10:20

Tue., Oct. 23

digital 12:30, 3:40, 7:10, 10:20

Wed., Oct. 17

digital 11:45am, 3:05, 6:30, 9:55

Cinemark Round Rock

4401 N. I-35, Round Rock, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium. Call theatre for complete March 26-28 showtimes.

Wed., Oct. 17

digital 12:30, 3:50, 7:10, 10:30

Thu., Oct. 18

digital 12:30, 3:50, 7:10, 10:30

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., Oct. 17

digital 10:00am, 1:05, 4:10, 7:15, 10:20

Cinemark Stone Hill Town Center

18820 Hilltop Commercial Dr., 512/251-0938, www.cinemark.com

Wed., Oct. 17

digital 12:50, 4:15, 7:30

Fri., Oct. 19

digital 12:00, 3:10, 6:20, 9:25

Sat., Oct. 20

digital 12:00, 3:10, 6:20, 9:25

Sun., Oct. 21

digital 12:00, 3:10, 6:20

Mon., Oct. 22

digital 12:00, 3:10, 6:20

Tue., Oct. 23

digital 12:00, 3:10, 6:20

City Lights Theatre

420 Wolf Ranch Parkway, Georgetown, 512/868-9922

Wed., Oct. 17

1:30, 4:30, 7:30, 10:20

Fri., Oct. 19

10:30am, 2:30, 6:30, 9:50

Sat., Oct. 20

10:30am, 2:30, 6:30, 9:50

Sun., Oct. 21

2:30, 6:30, 9:50

Mon., Oct. 22

2:30, 6:30, 9:50

Tue., Oct. 23

2:30, 6:30, 9:50

EVO Entertainment

3200 Kyle Crossing, Kyle, 512/523-9009, www.evo-entertainment.com

Wed., Oct. 17

11:05am, 2:15, 5:30, 8:40

Flix Brewhouse

2200 S. I-35, Round Rock, 512/244-3549, www.flixbrewhouse.com/round-rock

Wed., Oct. 17

CC 11:30am, 3:45, 8:00, 10:00

Thu., Oct. 18

CC 11:30am, 3:30, 8:15, 10:15

Fri., Oct. 19

CC 11:30am, 2:00, 7:45, 10:00

Sat., Oct. 20

CC 11:30am, 2:00, 4:15, 7:45, 10:00

Sun., Oct. 21

CC 11:30am, 2:00, 8:20, 10:00

Mon., Oct. 22

CC 2:00, 8:20, 10:00

Tue., Oct. 23

CC 2:00, 8:20, 10:00

Galaxy Highland 10

6700 Middle Fiskville, 512/467-7305, www.galaxytheatres.com

No one under 18 will be allowed in the theatre on Friday or Saturday after 7pm without an adult.

Wed., Oct. 17

12:30, 3:45, 7:00, 10:15, 10:30

Thu., Oct. 18

12:30, 3:45, 7:00, 10:15, 10:30

Fri., Oct. 19

12:45, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Sat., Oct. 20

12:45, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Sun., Oct. 21

12:45, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Mon., Oct. 22

12:45, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Tue., Oct. 23

12:45, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Gateway Theatre

9700 Stonelake, 512/416-5700

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., Oct. 17

CC/DVS 12:15, 3:30, 6:50, 10:05

Thu., Oct. 18

CC/DVS 12:15, 3:30, 6:50, 10:05

Fri., Oct. 19

CC/DVS 12:15, 3:30, 6:50, 10:05

Sat., Oct. 20

CC/DVS 12:15, 3:30, 6:50, 10:05

Sun., Oct. 21

CC/DVS 12:15, 3:30, 6:50, 10:05

Mon., Oct. 22

CC/DVS 12:15, 3:30, 6:50, 10:05

Tue., Oct. 23

CC/DVS 12:15, 3:30, 6:50, 10:05

iPic Theaters Austin

3225 Amy Donovan Plaza, 512/568-3400, www.ipic.com

Wed., Oct. 17

11:45am, 3:30, 7:30, 11:00

Thu., Oct. 18

11:15am, 3:00, 7:00, 10:30

Fri., Oct. 19

11:45am, 3:30, 7:15, 10:45

Sat., Oct. 20

11:45am, 3:30, 7:15, 10:45

Sun., Oct. 21

11:45am, 3:30, 7:15, 10:45

Mon., Oct. 22

11:45am, 3:30, 7:15, 10:45

Tue., Oct. 23

11:45am, 3:30, 7:15, 10:45

AMC Lakeline 9

11200 Lakeline Mall Dr., Cedar Park, 512/335-4793

Discounts daily before 6pm.

Wed., Oct. 17

CC/DVS 1:30, 4:45, 7:30

Fri., Oct. 19

CC/DVS 12:20, 3:45, 7:15, 10:20

Sat., Oct. 20

CC/DVS 12:20, 3:45, 7:15, 10:20

Sun., Oct. 21

CC/DVS 12:20, 3:45, 7:15

Mon., Oct. 22

CC/DVS 3:15, 6:45

Tue., Oct. 23

CC/DVS 12:20, 3:45, 7:15

Metropolitan

901 Little Texas, 512/447-0101

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., Oct. 17

CC/DVS 12:30, 3:45, 7:10, 10:30

Thu., Oct. 18

CC/DVS 12:30, 3:45, 7:10, 10:30

Moviehouse & Eatery

8300 N. FM 620, Bldg. B, 512/501-3520, www.themoviehouse.com/trails/

Wed., Oct. 17

10:45am, 2:20, 6:00, 9:40

Thu., Oct. 18

10:45am, 2:20, 6:00, 9:40

Fri., Oct. 19

10:45am, 2:20, 6:00, 9:40

Sat., Oct. 20

10:45am, 2:20, 6:00, 9:40

Sun., Oct. 21

10:45am, 2:20, 6:00, 9:40

Mon., Oct. 22

10:45am, 2:20, 6:00, 9:40

Tue., Oct. 23

10:45am, 2:20, 6:00, 9:40

Moviehouse & Eatery - Lantana Place

7415 Southwest Parkway, Building 7, 512/572-0770, www.themoviehouse.com/lantana/

Wed., Oct. 17

12:00, 3:35, 7:30, 9:50

Thu., Oct. 18

11:15am, 3:00, 6:30, 10:05

Fri., Oct. 19

11:25am, 3:30, 7:15, 10:00

Sat., Oct. 20

11:25am, 3:30, 7:15, 10:00

Sun., Oct. 21

11:25am, 3:30, 7:15, 10:00

Mon., Oct. 22

11:30am, 3:30, 7:15, 10:00

Tue., Oct. 23

11:30am, 3:30, 7:15, 10:00

ShowBiz Cinemas 8 Marble Falls

2600 Hwy 281 North, Marble Falls

Call theatre for August 22-23 showtimes.

Wed., Oct. 17

2:40, 6:20

Thu., Oct. 18

2:40, 6:20

Fri., Oct. 19

11:10am, 3:00, 6:40, 10:15

Sat., Oct. 20

11:10am, 3:00, 6:40, 10:15

Sun., Oct. 21

11:10am, 3:00, 6:40

Mon., Oct. 22

3:00, 6:40

Tue., Oct. 23

3:00, 6:40

Sky Cinemas

13201 US-290, 512/457-0700, www.skycinemas.com

Wed., Oct. 17

11:50am, 3:00, 6:10, 9:20

Thu., Oct. 18

12:00, 3:10, 6:20, 9:30

Wed., Oct. 17

3:30, 7:30, 10:30

Starplex 12 San Marcos

1250 Wonder World Drive, San Marcos, 512/805-8000

Wed., Oct. 17

12:45, 4:00, 7:15, 10:15

Thu., Oct. 18

12:45, 4:00, 7:15, 10:15

Westgate 11

4477 S. Lamar, 512/899-2717

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., Oct. 17

CC/DVS 11:45am, 3:15, 6:30, 9:35

Thu., Oct. 18

CC/DVS 11:45am, 3:15, 6:30, 9:35

Fri., Oct. 19

CC/DVS 12:00, 3:05, 6:15, 9:20

Sat., Oct. 20

CC/DVS 12:00, 3:05, 6:15, 9:20

Sun., Oct. 21

CC/DVS 11:45am, 2:45, 6:00, 9:15

Mon., Oct. 22

CC/DVS 12:00, 3:10, 6:15, 9:20

Tue., Oct. 23

CC/DVS 12:00, 3:10, 6:15, 9:20

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Bad Times at the El Royale, Drew Goddard, Cynthia Erivo, Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Lewis Pullman

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