2018 | rated R | starring Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto | written and directed by Drew Pearce | 1hr 34mins |
Review Pitch: The Sofia Boutella film festival continues…
Hotel Artemis has a crackerjack premise that builds a world rich with potential and fills it with a top notch cast. Then it slowly squanders that potential under a broad set of hijinks and low stakes action set pieces. The film is set around and almost entirely in the Hotel Artemis in the future, a secret hospital by membership only established by criminals for criminals where they can be treated for wounds without having to answer to the cops. The Nurse (Jodie Foster) owns, operates (literally) and enforces the roles with her orderly (Dave Bautista) while dealing with her own agoraphobia. On this night Los Angeles is coming apart around the hotel as a riot against the sci-fi Evil Corporation That Owns Everything (but not Google, movies aren’t that daring yet) that is rationing clean water. Amid the riots two brothers (Sterlink K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry) come in wounded from a bank robbery and wind up square in the middle of an assault between assassins and the hotel’s mysterious owner, The Wolf King.
Remake this movie immediately! Imagine a rogue’s gallery chamber film like this in the hands of a Quentin Tarantino or even Joe Carnahan. It’s Assault on Precinct 13 meets Smokin’ Aces, Reservoir Dogs set in a gilded age art deco style hotel with future weapons and robot arm surgeons. Writer/director Drew Pearce (writer of my adored Iron Man 3) sets up the ground work but doesn’t have fun with it. Imagine a version of this movie where these characters are trapped in here longer, where their secrets start to be revealed and the tension mounts. Instead, Pearce tells us pretty much everything we need to know up front (save for a cameo he leans hard into) and lets everyone flop around like a fish for the next hour repeating those beats. In addition to Brown as the film’s moral compass, we’ve got Charlie Day as a sleezebag arms dealer, Sofia Boutella – again – as a world class assassin for hire and Jenny Slate as a cop with a history with Jodie Foster. There are flashbacks and child drama, fathers and spoiled rotten heir-to-the-thrown children and drug addicts. But the movie doesn’t snap these pieces together well and build momentum as it goes.
I really wish that Pearce took the time to make the Hotel Artemis itself feel more lived in. As forgettable as it becomes, this is a competent movie. The film’s interesting premise and stellar cast keep in afloat. Pearce owes a huge debt here to a) Sterling Brown, whose natural charisma gives this character more appeal than probably was on the page, and b) Jodie Foster’s famously particular role choices giving this one her time. It’s interesting to wonder what about this character attracted her attention. With a premise this promising however Hotel Artemis should have been far more delicious than competent. A pulpy B-movie, a tense action film, full of shootouts and mayhem, a locked door mystery full of colorful characters – Hotel Artemis is none of these things. Its more like Pearce showing a studio he can manage actors and handle homage filmmaking, an audition for a blockbuster down the line.