Hotel Artemis, the first directorial offering from Drew Pearce (writer of Iron Man 3, Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation) is a tale of criminals, care professionals, crime bosses and killers. It’s funny, stylish, engaging and yet… and yet… there’s something about it that rings just a little hollow, like we’re only just scraping the surface of this place and these characters, something that holds it back and leaves it as a good movie, not a great one.
Set in the not-so-distant future of 2028, Los Angeles is consumed by riots following the cutting off of all the water supplies by the private company that controls them. In the middle of this we have a bank robbery led by cool, confident thief Sherman (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother Lev (Brian Tyree Henry) along with two other hired hands. Things go south and the brothers end up in a gunfight with police that leads to them both being injured. The place to go when you’re a crook and need to be patched up without worrying about awkward questions like “Arte all these blood stains yours?” is the titular Hotel Artemis, run by “The Nurse” (Jodie Foster) and “Everest” (Dave Bautista), her orderly, who insist that the rules of the Artemis be followed at all times. The rules include “No disrespecting the staff”, “No weapons allowed” and one that you might expect to be obvious “No killing the other patients”.
Added to our initial pair we have an assassin, who goes by the code name “Nice” (Sofia Boutella) and a sleazy, self-important arms dealer who goes by the name “Acapulco” (Charlie Day), both named after the rooms they inhabit in the Hotel. What starts out as a simple night at the Artemis rapidly escalates into chaos as the riots outside grow closer and tensions within the Hotel escalate, the fires stoked by the arrival of the crime boss of LA “The Wolf King” who owns the Hotel Artemis itself. By the end of the night, all but three of the rules that govern the Artemis have been broken and the audience will be left entertained and yet still wanting more.
Praise must be given to the set designers here; the Artemis itself is as much a character in the film as any of the actors, run down and high tech at the same time, evoking comparisons to the feel of the original Blade Runner, though with far less neon or miracle cameras that can see around doors. Jodie Foster is simply superb as the Nurse, a hard drinking, anxiety-ridden agoraphobe who has never really gotten past the death of her son and hasn’t set foot outside the Artemis in a very, very long time. Her only companion beyond the criminals who come and go is Everest, played again with beautiful deadpan humour by Dave Bautista. It’s the rare wrestler who makes the successful jump from the squared circle to the big screen but following his performance as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy he appears to have found a niche that suits him very nicely.
Zachary Quinto also stars as the Wolf King’s son, and we have Jeff Goldblum as the Wolf King himself. Goldblum’s performance is smooth, low key, exuding a quiet confidence and menace that makes him believable as a man to be reckoned with while Quinto is the youngest son, out to prove himself in his father’s eyes by any means necessary, desperate for his approval. In truth there’s not a bad performance anywhere, but the movie is let down by a script that ultimately plays it a little too safe, trying to cram in too many plots that are wrapped up too quickly and neatly to be entirely convincing.
It’s possible this is down to the relatively brisk run time of only 84 minutes, the story feels like it would have benefited from more time to let these plots breathe and expand. Goldblum, for instance, is in the movie for perhaps a grand total of around ten minutes of actual screen time despite his character being such a looming threat throughout the first half of the film.
Criticisms of a perhaps slightly undercooked script aside, Hotel Artemis is by turns slick, action packed, melancholy and funny and for the most part it succeeds in making these disparate plot threads hang together, offering us a glimpse of a world that is reminiscent of that inhabited by a certain Mr John Wick and we can hope that a sequel is in the offing that will allow Drew Pearce to further develop and investigate it.
Hotel Artemis is on general release from Friday 13th July.