REVIEW: Hotel Artemis – An Entertaining Stay

When broken down into its individual elements, Hotel Artemis isn’t anything we haven’t seen before: citywide riots, dystopian futures, impossible-to-believe tech and sympathetic criminals can be found in much of our fiction today. But the movie is more than the sum of its parts, resulting in a fun and frantic ride that creates several standout moments even if a few others fall flat.

Fire chemistry that deserves more screentime.

Although the star-studded cast is the primary draw to seeing the story – and none of them disappoint – it wouldn’t be as enjoyable without the kooky premise. Criminals needing treatment while avoiding cops is nothing new, but the idea of a hospital designed specifically to treat the most dangerous members of society as long as they pay a membership fee is novel enough to keep Hotel Artemis afloat through some instances of uneven tone and pacing. The Artemis is surprisingly understaffed considering how many dangerous criminals pass in and out of its rooms every night, with the mysterious and overtaxed Nurse (Jodie Foster) running the show while her trusty sidekick Everest (Dave Bautista) enforces the rules of no guns, names or killing. Both turn in strong performances despite the purposeful clouding of their characters and backstories, but Everest winds up being the more memorable of the two staff members, both because of Bautista’s natural charm and his ride-or-die loyalty to Nurse. First-time director Drew Pearce, who also wrote the script, adds in a specific memory for Nurse on which much of the plot hinges, but it’s not as compelling as the general sense of battling against hopelessness that filters through every frame.

In fact, vagueness is all the rage in this film: aside from a general sense of political dysfunction and the knowledge that public water supplies have been privatized, there isn’t much to identify the world of Los Angeles in 2028. That may bother viewers who like a little more information, but it also

Woman in charge.

helps develop a sense of immediacy that might not otherwise be present. Any of the myriad injustices Americans are facing today could fill in for the water crises and create a heart-stopping chaos such as this. Perhaps that was the most poignant part of the movie, despite not being the point of the story. Sometimes the laws and people meant to protect you are the very ones you must escape.

The thieves, corrupt businessmen and murderers who check in and of the “hotel” have equally ambiguous stories to their names, although Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) probably have the most detailed and complicated dynamic of the set. Brown carries much of the film on his steady shoulders, seamlessly combining sacrifices his character makes for family with his rarely-mentioned but oft-seen doomed love for Nice (Sofia Boutella). Speaking of Nice, she gets one of the most iconic lines and action sequences in the tail end of Hotel Artemisshowcasing Boutella’s dance background as well as cementing her character as much more layered than she originally seemed.

The rest of the cast – including Charlie Day as the sleazy Acapulco, Jeff Goldblum as crime boss (and Artemis owner) Wolf King, and Jenny Slate as the cop who ties into Nurse’s past and completely upends her routine – all have their moments to shine even though their characters are not particularly complex. However, perhaps the hotel reached its occupancy limit in the back half, as the large influx of characters weighed the story down just as the tensions most increased. This unfortunately meant that not much use was made of Goldblum or even Zachary Quinto, who played his son, aside from being plot devices to reach the climax. But by the time the story broke down a little, the world-building and previous inhabitants of the hotel were strong enough to blast through the sluggish period.

Hotel Artemis may not be a deeply moving film, but with the help of impressive set design, excellent fight choreography and a light touch of science fiction to move the plot along, it becomes a welcome way to spend 90 minutes.