Hotel Artemis, 2018.
Written and Directed by Drew Pearce.
Starring Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista, and Kenneth Choi.
Set in riot-torn, near-future Los Angeles, ‘Hotel Artemis’ follows the Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals.
Hotel Artemis is best summarized as a case of a plethora of talented actors mining their charismatic personalities until the well is dry, but it’s all for naught as writer and director Drew Pearce’s feature debut is a hodgepodge of undercooked characterizations fighting each other for screen time inside of a concept that, on paper as an intriguing ripoff of the specialty hotel for criminals in the John Wick franchise, never amounts to anything worthwhile or supremely entertaining outside of some visually appealing production design that simultaneously captures both a worn down, well guarded bunker structure and an inviting atmosphere.
Hell, one of the most surprising things about Hotel Artemis is that for such a B-grade pulpy experience, there isn’t much action until the final act, and even then the filmmakers somehow find a way to drop the ball on giving Dave Bautista a memorable confrontation against numerous generic villains despite teasing the scene for minutes on end. However, at least during that timeframe, Sofia Boutella takes advantage of her flexibility and acrobatic skills to slaughter thugs with some deadly blades. In the end, I suppose it’s a fair trade-off.
Basically, for a hotel serving as sanctuary for some of 2028 Los Angeles’ most hardened criminals (the outside of the country is a bigger mess saddled with extreme political activism gone full blown nonstop riots over a tyrannical corporation and its reluctance to distribute a fair supply of water), it takes a while for the busy night of new guests to fully shit the bed. Charlie Day plays a narcissistic, cocky, misogynistic, rich jerk of a weapons dealer that consistently stars arguments with the others, Sofia Boutella is a bombshell assassin purposely injuring herself to gain access to the hotel and subsequently her mystery high profile target, Sterling K. Brown seeks refuge with his character’s brother after a righteous robbery goes south, and the “no cops” policy is broken for an unexpected visitor with a personal link to Jodie Foster’s “Nurse” that runs the place.
Clearly, it’s not exactly subtle foreshadowing that eventually everything will go to hell in a handbasket, but Hotel Artemis never mixes all these distinct characters into a satisfying narrative. The bulk of what little story is here (also surprising considering the sparse amount of violence outside of the ending outburst of blood and gore) concerns Jodie Foster and her 20+ year reputation of patching up criminals and providing them their own safe haven protection service, also free from the authorities. More information is given out such as a tragic past involving a drug-addicted son, but literally no one is going to care about any of it. Make no mistake about it, Jodie is overacting the hell out of the role, putting everything she’s got into every overly sentimental and pointless monologue along with every cheesy one-liner usually containing an amusing concoction of profanity, but it’s like being asked to care about the daily routine of a doctor to whom you share no relation. There are a lot of shady personas in Hotel Artemis, most of which I would line up to watch individual films about (if one good thing comes out of the movie it will be a spinoff centered on Sofia Boutella), but Drew Pearce is fixated on the least interesting one. The concept alone is fascinating enough to the point where we don’t need extensive exposition regarding the Nurse and why she fixes up criminals.
The Nurse also has some serious muscle on hand for her own protection in the form of ex-WWE wrestler turned outstanding actor Dave Bautista, who is aware of how stupid the movie actually is. Not only is he a towering force to be reckoned with not in need of guns or blunt foreign objects, but he’s also comparable to Drax (his famous Guardians of the Galaxy superhero) in terms of taking jokes too literally and generally pulling off some brilliant dry humor. He is excellent in the role and easily one of the only aspects of the movie to write home about, but there is a concern that he will fall into typecasting for the same style of comedy, which I suppose is fine, but disappointing for those confident that he is capable of so much more as Blade Runner 2049 proved.
Lastly, there’s a gang kingpin of sorts played by none other than Jeff Goldblum; during the majority of the runtime, he is offscreen being hurried in the back of a van to the hotel suffering from unknown fatal injuries. His inevitable presence is advertised as destructively dangerous to the very rules in place of the titular hotel, but by the time he arrives the film is almost over and even he feels wasted to a degree. The ending to the entire movie is actually very anticlimactic outside of the aforementioned killing spree from Sofia Boutella. The moral of the review? Someone give her an entire franchise, not necessarily related to Hotel Artemis, but anything. She can carry it and is constantly proving herself to be the best part of some very underwhelming movies.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com