Starring: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista & Jeff Goldblum
Directed by: Drew Pearce
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Release Date: July 2018
Running Time: 94 mins
Synopsis: As rioting rocks Los Angeles in the year 2028, disgruntled thieves make their way to Hotel Artemis — a 13-story, members-only hospital for criminals. It’s operated by the Nurse, a no-nonsense, high-tech healer who already has her hands full with a French assassin, an arms dealer and an injured cop. 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.
Set in a near-future Los Angeles where water privatisation has led to mass riots in the streets and a group of injured criminals attempt to co-exist in a secret hospital, Hotel Artemis blends the science-fiction and crime drama genres together to produce a quirky low-budget film with plenty of familiar faces. As the debut directorial effort from British screenwriter Drew Pearce, it comes as no surprise that the script is razor-sharp and its characters are extremely well-defined. While the film does feel limited to its titular location, Pearce manages to engage audiences with the mystery stemming from the shady backgrounds of his criminal protagonists, culminating in an explosion of violence by the film’s end.
Jodie Foster delivers a transformative performance as the nurse in charge of the Hotel Artemis, conveying the woman’s world-weariness through every facet of her body language. A delicious contradiction of smart-assery and vulnerability, Foster makes her seem like a believable character despite those juxtaposing traits and nails the emotional beats of the plot with ease. The scenes between her and Jeff Goldblum are particularly riveting, leaving the viewer feeling somewhat short-changed by their limited screen-time together. Goldblum is a more than capable foil for Foster, bringing his trademark otherworldliness to the role and illuminating the screen whenever he appears.
The film’s ensemble cast all shine in their roles, particularly Sterling K. Brown who plays Sherman, a reluctant criminal tied to a life of crime through familial obligations. I was unfamiliar with the actor before this film, but his solid understated performance has certainly registered him on my radar. Sofia Boutella also stands out as the French assassin, Nice, imbuing the role with the same raw femininity that she brought to her performance in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Dave Bautista also showcases his physicality in the role of Everest, the kind-hearted security personnel at the Hotel and the Nurse’s closest confidante. Charlie Day also appears in a lesser role, but is gifted some of the wittiest lines in the script to compensate.
Visually, Hotel Artemis distinguishes itself from the typical dystopian thriller and feels akin to an Art Deco version of Sin City at times. There is definitely a “film noir” vibe to the film and it has the similar majesty in its design as Frank Miller’s iconic black and white crime epics. While it doesn’t lean as hard into its ‘film noir’ roots as Sin City does, Hotel Artemis feels adjacent to that world. There are also hints of Reservoir Dogs and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels about the plot as the backstories behind the various criminals begin to interweave to form a bigger picture. The film’s low budget ($15.5M) is noticeable at times with the majority of events contained within the secret hospital itself, again drawing comparisons with the likes of Reservoir Dogs.
At a lean 93 minutes in length, Hotel Artemis feels a tad too brisk at times and one wonders if too much was cut out in the editing process. Both the script and performances are strong enough individually, but the film as a whole feels slightly lacking in impact – particularly when it comes to establishing tension for the final act. There’s a perfunctory flatness to the ending which comes as a disappointment after the film’s self-assured introduction (set to the tunes of The Mamas & The Papas, no less), and it feels as if the fates of certain characters were left purposefully ambiguous in the hope for a follow-up that will never come.
Overall, Hotel Artemis feels like a demonstration of style over substance – particularly in the instance of the script, which boasts some zingy one-liners and nimble exposition, but fails to innovate beyond a predictable ending. The ensemble cast all do a terrific job at bringing their characters to life, and it’s refreshing to see a very different mix of faces headlining the movie, but the film doesn’t quite reach its potential. Worth watching for its curious juxtaposition of modern science-fiction and art deco design, as well as the noteworthy performances from both Jodie Foster and Jeff Goldblum, Hotel Artemis resembles the majority of hotel stays: a pleasant enough experience that you probably won’t revisit again any time soon.