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Hotel Artemis (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

Hotel Artemis


Starring Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day, Brian Tyree Henry, Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto, Jenny Slate, Kenneth Choi, Josh Tillman, Evan Jones, Nathan Davis Jr., Ramses Jimenez, Angela Sprinkle, Lloyd Sherr, Baldeep Singh, Brandon Morales, Tanner Gill, Bruce Concepcion and Mason Shea Joyce.

Screenplay by Drew Pearce.

Directed by Drew Pearce.

Distributed by Lionsgate. 93 minutes. Rated R.

Hotel Artemis seems like an odd choice for respected actress Jodie Foster to return to the big screen after a five-year hiatus. However, Foster has always made adventurous choices in her career, everything from playing a child prostitute in Taxi Driver, to a rape victim in The Accused, to even playing the wife of a man who talks through a puppet in The Beaver. She even did a film in which she did her dialogue completely in French (A Very Long Engagement). As an actress, she’s never been afraid to take chances.

Therefore, I guess it isn’t that shocking that she would end up in this dystopian B-movie, which takes place in the near future – a 2028 Los Angeles plagued with massive riots due to the recent privatization of the water supply. (I guess John Huston was right in Chinatown – it’s all about the water.)

Foster plays a character much older and more haggard than she is in real life. She is addicted to drugs and alcohol, an agoraphobic who works in the old rundown establishment of the title.

Even though the Artemis looks like an old art-deco hotel gone to seed, it actually is a high-tech members-only hospital for criminals. If you pay your dues and follow the rules (i.e. no talking back, no non-members, no visitors, no cops, no killing the other patients), you can have that inconvenient bullet removed or even have an internal organ replaced with a nifty 3D organ printer.

Foster’s character, known simply as “The Nurse” (though her real name is divulged a few times), has spent the last 22 years inside the building, healing killers, gangsters and money launderers when she isn’t in her room, drinking, watching the news and listening to The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreaming.”

She also keeps flashing back on a mysterious young boy playing on the beach in Santa Monica.

She is the only full-time resident in the hotel except for her aide, “The Orderly” (played by wrestler-turned-Guardian of the Galaxy Dave Bautista). The orderly is a huge, muscular, tattooed dude who would seem to be there just as muscle but turns out to be surprisingly sensitive and intelligent.

Hotel Artemis takes place all in one hectic, violent night. Outside of the walls of Hotel Artemis, LA is a war zone. The people are rioting in the streets. Stores are being looted, buildings burnt down, bystanders attacked. Helicopters are being shot from the sky. The electricity is being turned off periodically by the police as a way of dampening the chaos.

The criminals, like the staff, don’t go by names. Instead, they are called by their room name (all suites are named after vacation-destination cities). There is Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry), two brothers who are armed robbers. Waikiki has been trying to go straight, but Honolulu keeps getting him into trouble. There is also Acapulco (Charlie Day), an obnoxious arms dealer. And there is Nice (Sofia Boutella) a sexy and deadly hit woman.

Inside, the already busy place is having a particularly crazy night. There are already four patients, when two more people arrive and throw everything out of whack. One is the head of Los Angeles crime – the owner of the hotel, known as The Wolf King of LA (played by Jeff Goldblum) – and his hot-headed son (Zachary Quinto). The other is a near-dead policewoman (Jenny Slate) who has some connection with The Nurse’s pre-Artemis existence.

As you can see, Hotel Artemis has a lot of ideas. And most of that stuff happens in the first half.

Sadly, eventually the ideas seem to run out. Once the world of Hotel Artemis is set up, it becomes something of a generic, if rather stylish, action film. As the second half kicks in, and the mayhem takes over, Hotel Artemis becomes less quirky and more predictable.

However, in a Hollywood where nearly everything is cookie cutter, you can’t blame first-time director Drew Pearce (who co-wrote the screenplays for Iron Man 3 and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) for having too many ideas. Hotel Artemis is a neo-noir which is chock full of potential that it can’t quite live up to. Still it’s better to try too hard and come up a little short than to not try at all and just phone it in.

Pearce has stuffed his film with cool notions and even some odd Easter eggs for fans. For example, Goldblum’s character is nicknamed The Wolf King of LA. That is the name of the first solo album by John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas, whose music is used conspicuously in the film. Is that an interesting tribute, or is it too obscure? Or is it perhaps a complete coincidence? Discuss.

Hotel Artemis isn’t necessarily a very good movie, but it mostly is a very fun movie. Sometimes that’s enough.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: June 8, 2018.

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