A bank robbery goes wrong and two brothers (Sterling K. Brown and Bryan Tyree Henry) find themselves with some new unwanted holes that need patching up. Trapped in a city in revolt over water shortages, they take refuge at the Hotel Artemis, a hospital for criminals.
In the hotel, they are bound by certain rules set by the Head Nurse (Jodie Foster) and enforced by her orderly, Everest (Dave Bautista). But through a contrived set of events, they will find themselves fighting for their lives against their fellow patients and the army of gangsters led by the mysterious but malevolent owner of the hotel (Jeff Goldblum).
Cult movie aspirations
There’s something lacking in Hotel Artemis. It clearly has cult movie aspirations. It’s copyrighted and dated title card urges comparisons to 70s grindhouse, but it’s nowhere near entertaining enough to deserve such comparisons.
The film hopes to build tension between the characters, tangling storylines, climaxing with an explosive action finale. Each of these elements fall short.
The ensemble cast all avail themselves well, bringing subdued life to small roles. In particular Dave Bautista is characteristically charismatic with self-effacing charm, Jodie Foster is a compelling lead character with genuine poignancy to her insecurity, and Sofia Boutella seems to having more fun than everyone else.
But none of the characters are eccentric enough to be fun or deep enough to be fully engaging (with the exception of Foster’s Nurse). Actors like Charlie Day feel like they are getting closer to what ought to be the spirit of the film with his intensely aggressive business guy. Zachary Quinto as the emotionally fragile son of a mafia warlord ought to be much more unhinged. Most tragically, Jeff Goldblum is uncharacteristically restrained.
The film is also lacking in terms of memorable action. After the introductory failed bank heist, we then have some scrapping near the film’s climax. Most of this is of the fast cut, covering for lack of skill variety, but Boutella is able to show off some fairly fancy moves.
The action lacks the intensity of The Raid, which seems to have been at least an aesthetic inspiration, or the visceral satisfaction of a Verhoeven movie. A knife fight with a laser scalpel should definitely be grislier than what we get.
The nature of the hotel recalls The Continental from the John Wick films which have a similar set of strict rules. But whereas The Continental forms part of a fascinating and highly camp world of professional hitmen, there’s something very threadbare about the Artemis and indeed the futuristic world of the film. Beyond the holiday destination themed rooms and the rules about not killing other patients, there’s not much to explore.
There is some depth to the futuristic medical procedures on offer at the Artemis. There are laser scalpels, 3D printed organs, and nano-machines. This offers glimpses of how this futuristic Los Angeles may be different from today, but there’s little innovation or detail to flesh out the world. There’s a tantalising reference to traveling “south of the wall” but we learn little of this dystopian future, beyond that still sucks to be poor.
To accommodate the story being told or the action that unfolds, there’s no reason the film couldn’t have been contemporary or even a western. Nothing is done with it’s setting.
Hotel Artemis is a thriller that is seriously lacking in thrills
The film would have benefited from either being deeper or, preferably, much more silly. A group of eccentric criminals is trapped in a hotel that is besieged by goons.
This should have been an update of Assault on Precinct 13. What we have just isn’t that special or memorable.