Original Concepts on Life Support
Hotel Artemis packs a stellar cast of supporting characters and a returning Jodie Foster in an attempt to capitalize on a universe of noble criminals (seemingly “inspired” by the John Wick franchise). Artemis has a lot of great ideas but ultimately the plot and pacing hamper the movie’s potential. Despite the film’s shortcomings, Foster and Dave Bautista impress with great chemistry mixed with wit and seriousness. Each member of the cast has a highlight but some characters are wasted or don’t get a chance to truly shine. The film doesn’t have too many action scenes, but a hallway of death featuring Sofia Boutella is memorable.
As rioting rocks Los Angeles in the year 2028, disgruntled thieves (Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry) make their way to Hotel Artemis, a 13-story, members-only hospital for criminals. It’s operated by the Nurse (Foster), a no-nonsense, high-tech healer who already has her hands full with a French assassin (Boutella), an arms dealer (Charlie Day) and an injured cop (Jenny Slate). As the violence of the night continues, the Nurse must decide whether to break her own rules and confront what she’s worked so hard to avoid.
The back plot of future LA riots concerning the privatization of clean water provides an interesting plot premise for the movie. Unfortunately, the film fails to really explore the ramifications of this setting, choosing to merely utilize it as fancy window dressing for a by the books criminal hospital tale. Admittedly, director-writer Drew Pearce does lay the ground work for some intriguing political discourse, using arms dealer Day, but the whole enterprise is merely utilized for a few throw away lines lacking substance.
The real strength of this movie is performances. Bautista fully utilizes his masterful “Drax” humor to phenomenal straight man effect. There are many humorous lines bolstered by Bautista’s strong and intimidating demeanor. Bautista’s performance is only amplified by the no-nonsense approach taken by the Nurse. It is great to see Foster back on the big screen, and she completely makes the Nurse role her own. Foster embodies a strict adherence to the rules that can be loosened by the occasion.
Unfortunately, the other members of the cast don’t share the same success on the screen. Sterling K. Brown never really feels like the protagonist of the film. His hero arc towards the climax of the film feels forced and unearned. Overall, the character is just a result of circumstance than action, likely a result of the meandering script. It’s somewhat a surprise that a film with only one major setting can have so many storylines that are resolved too quickly to have an impact.
Jeff Goldblum’s brief appearance is only a bit more substantial than a cameo, and it is better to not even mention Zachary Quinto’s failed appearance. Sophia’s strength is not in her mysterious character’s backstory or presence but in Pearce’s fantastic action direction of a last-stand hallway fight sequence. However, blending this sequence with a rabid, axe-wielding Bautista does not achieve the desired effect, as Bautista’s scene is noticeably lazier in execution.
Overall, I applaud Hotel Artemis for attempting an original idea in a fascinating new world, but the intended result misses the mark. I hope to see Foster appear in more films (maybe even with Bautista).