Hotel Artemis? More like Hotel Artifice! Am I right? Goddamn right I’m right. Not exactly boding well for Starz’s rumored TV show The Continental, which will take us behind the front desk of the luxury hotel catering to assassins in the John Wick universe (think Arthur Hailey’s Love Boat-esque ‘80s soap Hotel but with 100% more gun-fu…), Hotel Artemis posits a dystopian near future Los Angeles where Jodie Foster’s alcoholic, agoraphobic struck-off nurse, the Nurse, and hospital orderly Everest (Dave Bautista) run an illicit luxury hotel-cum-hospital that only caters to criminals, where all guests/patients are assigned a code name based on the suite they occupy and the house rules are simple: no guns, no violence, no cops. I wonder how many of those rules will be broken by the end of the night then?

As an apocalyptic riot engulfs downtown Hell-A, a gang of armed robbers, led by brothers Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and Honolulu (Bryan Tyree Henry), see their not-particularly well planned or competently executed bank heist go sideways when they’re wounded in a shootout with the police and forced to seek treatment at the Hotel Artemis.

With Honolulu on life support as he recovers from the Nurse’s robot-assisted 3D-printed liver transport (it’s the future, innit?), Waikiki meets fellow felons annoying, misogynist arms dealer Acapulco (Charlie Day) and slinky assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella), Waikiki’s former lover, whose self-inflicted injury is a ruse to get her close to her next target, the undisputed ruler of LA’s underworld, the Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), the same man the luckless Waikiki and Honolulu have just stolen a fortune in diamonds from.

The Nurse and Everest have their own problems though, not least of which is breaking their own house rules when the Nurse takes in and treats injured cop (and major back story) Morgan (Jenny Slate) who has collapsed at their door. And then the Wolf King’s petulant son (Zachary Quinto) calls to say the Great Man has need of the Nurse’s services and is on his way…

Moody and stylish, like the 3D-printed plastic guns Charlie Day’s arsehole arms dealer peddles, British writer/director Drew Pearce’s debut feature Hotel Artemis never quite hits the bullseye. Lushly shot by Oldboy cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon and confined to the sickly green-hued corridors and rooms of the elegantly decaying titular hotel, Pearce fails to exploit the scenario’s inherent pressure cooker claustrophobia and his script manages to be flabby and opaque while still being too damn busy, mostly uninteresting characters spitting cod-cool noir-lite dialogue at each other while the film spins its wheels, testing the audience’s patience as it delays our gratification, making us wait for the film’s sole big fight scene.

Just who is our main character? Is it the Nurse? Is it Waikiki? Nice? Everest? What’s at stake? The diamonds? The threat of the big, bad Wolf King? The injured cop? With so much going on and so many plot threads it’s hard to tell what exactly is at stake and the film lacks focus, leaving the audience with a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Worry not if while watching Hotel Artemis you feel you’ve seen it all before; stay calm, you have, Pearce cramming the film with ideas he’s magpied from other, better films at the expense of creating characters and situations we actually care about while contriving to make the film feel instantly dated by setting it in a grimy dystopian near-future LA where the beleaguered citizenry have taken to the streets after an evil corporation shuts off both the water and power. Remember how ludicrous Strange Days felt when Kathryn Bigelow tried to tell us that Skunk Anansie and civil disobedience would be the soundtrack to the Millennium? Yup, that’s how Hotel Artemis feels all the time and I can’t be the only one who wished Pearce had focused a little more on the politics teased by that thrown away background detail than the cribbings from every half-decent crime movie of the last 50 years.

In her first film role in five years, Foster tics, mugs and old lady shuffles her way through the film like a geriatric Dustin Hoffman in surgical scrubs, giving us a performance halfway between Ratso Rizzo and Tootsie while charisma vacuum Sterling K. Brown is so non-descript it’s easy to forget his character is in the film when he’s not on the screen which, considering he’s possibly the closest thing to a protagonist, is less than ideal. The rest of Pearce’s casting is as lazy as his script, his choices filling in the blanks his script should have. Charlie Day plays the same obnoxious, annoying arsehole he always does, just not a funny one, and, as the evil kingpin who rules LA, Jeff Goldblum phones in a performance of such louche ennui it’s easy to believe he may have a green screen set up in his basement and never actually left his house. Dave Bautista serves up another likable impersonation of the Rock and, while she’s essentially just playing her patented ass-kicking assassin role again, Sofia Boutella’s balletic, bone-crunching fight scene is the highlight of the film.

Good-looking, derivative and empty, Hotel Artemis is ultimately more Hotel Babylon.

Movie Review: Hotel Artemis
2.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author