Hotel Artemis is the kind of movie I bet I’ll enjoy more the second time around. It’s the kind of intimate action film that would probably play better on the small screen. Hotel Artemis would have make for an excellent Netflix original that’s a welcome bonus to stumble onto on an otherwise boring night.
The hotel is hardly a five-star resort, but it gets the only job it needs done. The Nurse (Jodie Foster, Elysium) runs a tight and effective hotel. She only provides service to current members. Hotel Artemis is not a cash joint. While in the hotel, guests/patients have to abide by a certain code — namely no violence against one another. Guest used code names based on their room assignments.
In a lot of ways, the film feels like an offshoot of the John Wick franchise. Since John and his fellow assassins can enjoy a luxury hotel with every amenity provided and very strict rules, why wouldn’t they also have a hospital with similar guidelines?
To help her enforce the rules, The Nurse has an orderly Everest (Dave Bautista, Avengers: Infinity War) who is every bit the walking man mountain his name implies. As strict as The Nurse is about sticking to the letter of the hotel guidelines, Everest is even more by the books.
With a riot breaking out in L.A., the hotel is fast approaching its remaining vacancies. One of which is occupied by Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown, Black Panther) who’s brought his brother (Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta) in to get patched up after a botched robbery.
Waikiki has a past with another guest, Nice (Sofia Boutella, Atomic Blonde), an assassin looking to break the hotel’s cardinal rule. Nice’s target could easily be the obnoxious weapons dealer Acapulco (Charlie Day, Fist Fight). And just to really throw off everything for The Nurse, she gets a pair of unexpected guests in a police officer (Jenny Slate) who she has a past connection with and Niagra (Jeff Goldblum, Thor: Ragnarok), the hotel’s financier and his son, Crosby (Zachary Quinto, Star Trek Beyond).
But with so many divergent personalities, it’s just a matter of time before The Nurse and Everest lose control of an increasingly tense situation.
Set in 2028, the film sets up just enough fancy hi-tech gadgets to be possible in another decade without going full sci-fi with flying cars and lasers. I kind of wish Director/Writer Drew Pearce did a little more with the futuristic setting to justify the time frame. There seemed to be a few missed opportunities to introduce some more exotic, but practical technology if nothing else.
I got a Clue vibe from the introduction and presentation of the characters. Everyone has a secret and no one is too forthcoming with their true agendas. Pearce could have done a bit more to beef up the script particularly with the various interactions of the guests. There’s one good scene with Brown, Boutella and Day that makes good on having characters of ill repute in such close proximity, but it’s more the exception than the norm. Pearce also adds a twist that he sets up as this major bombshell, but doesn’t quite work due to the underdeveloped characters.
Fortunately, Pearce’s cast can fill in some of the narrative blanks and makes the most of their thin character development. Brown has dutifully paid his dues in TV supporting roles before becoming a prominent player on This Is Us. He seems primed for his turn now as a leading man with this role being a nice showcase to prove he’s fully capable of headlining a film. Playing off of Foster doesn’t hurt either.
Foster has the meatiest role and I loved the character elements she added to The Nurse like her slightly nervous fidgeting, her fear of going outside and her strained efforts to find a bedside manner. Former wrestler Bautista has made noticeable strides with his acting and he’s made smart choices to show off his personality and not just his muscles. Boutella has the femme fatale role down and Day can do over the top in his sleep. It’s a great cast, but I kept feeling like Pearce didn’t do enough with them. He does establish a nice mystery and whodunit tone even before the first murder.
Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung (It) sets up some very cool lighting both inside the hotel’s not so lavish interior and the chaos going on outside.
Pearce holds off on the big action sequence until the last act. It almost doesn’t feel needed as a more low key finale might have been more effective. Still, the fight is well staged particularly, when Boutella fights off a horde of dudes, but the stakes come across low and don’t mean much in the end.
Hotel Artemis doesn’t completely live up to its potential, but the cast keeps it entertaining enough to warrant a watch and come to really appreciate for what it is after the second viewing.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Photo Credit: Global Road Entertainment