Hotel Artemis (United States, 2018)

June 07, 2018
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Hotel Artemis Poster

Hotel Artemis has the look and feel of a graphic novel adaptation, albeit with a few pages missing. With its flashy action sequences and Tarantino-wannabe vibe, the movie tries hard to be hip and edgy but ends up simply being uneven. Tonal shifts are also a problem for first-time director Drew Pearce, who is unable to seamlessly entwine serious movements with comedic ones. The humor is often muted and at times almost apologetic and a subplot involving long-ago events fails in its goal of boosting the three-dimensionality of a character. There are some great moments, however, including one in which actress Sofia Boutella dares a group of thugs to cross her line.

The movie transpires in 2028 although, considering the level of technological advancement (which include using nanites to heal wounds and 3-D printers to create new organs), it probably should be set another few decades beyond. There’s a vaguely dystopian feel to the proceedings which take place during citywide riots in Los Angeles brought about by the privatization of public water supplies. The Hotel Artemis is members-only hospital for elite criminals run by the mysterious Nurse (Jodie Foster), who has been helping the bad guys get top notch health care for 22 years. There are strict rules in the Hotel Artemis. No names are used – “guests” are referred to only by their room designation. Weapons are as unwelcome as outsiders. And there’s a strict policy of not killing anyone while in treatment. Nurse’s faithful orderly, Everest (Dave Bautista), is on hand to enforce the rules.

It’s a busy night at the Artemis. Nurse admits two gunshot victims – Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his more seriously injured brother, Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) – bringing the total number of guests to four. The other two are Nice (Sofia Boutella), who has an arm injury, and the pugnacious Acapulco (Charlie Day), whose face needs reparations. That leaves only one available room and it will soon be occupied by the Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), the city’s top gangster. Meanwhile, Nurse admits a critically injured police officer (Morgan) for sentimental reasons. Rule-breaking inside and the approach of the riots outside create a powder keg atmosphere ready to blow.

Hotel Artemis is undercut by a sense of incompleteness. The film does a poor job of world building both inside and outside the hotel. The movie feels rushed, as if significant chunks of the story were deleted in service of a short (<90 minutes) running time. The central character, The Nurse, is arguably the least interesting person in the film and her backstory (which includes a son who died nearly a quarter century ago) is ineffective as a motivating factor for a decisive action she takes. The more compelling characters of Waikiki and Nice aren’t given sufficient screen time to be fleshed-out.

There’s nothing wrong with Jodie Foster’s performance, although it’s curious that she chose this movie to end a five-year absence from the screen. Jeff Goldblum continues his recent trend of being underused. Goldblum has appeared in quite a few high-profile films lately but, as in Hotel Artemis, his participation has been limited to a handful of scenes. Charlie Day is effectively cast as a noxious character who we immediately want to see dead. And, although Sofia Boutella isn’t given nearly enough to do, she has a great kick-ass scene as all hell breaks loose inside the Artemis.

I could see Hotel Artemis working as an anthology TV series – a sort of dark, nihilistic version of The Love Boat or Fantasy Island. (With Dave Bautista shouting, “The plane! The plane!”) As a movie, however, it’s frustratingly sparse in both background details and character development. The fights are effectively filmed and there are a few viscerally satisfying scenes but the production as a whole feels inconsequential. Beyond the impressive set design and evocative cinematography, there’s something missing.

Hotel Artemis (United States, 2018)

Director: Drew Pearce
Cast: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Dave Bautista, Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto
Home Release Date: 2018-10-09
Screenplay: Drew Pearce
Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung
Music: Cliff Martinez
U.S. Distributor: Global Road Entertainment
Run Time: 1:28
U.S. Release Date: 2018-06-08
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity)
Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1