Movie Review Hotel Artemis
Hotel Artemis is an over baked confection that still manages to satisfy, largely thanks to a linchpin performance by Jodie Foster.
This summer already has a murderer’s row of action films booking reservations for your eyeballs. Most of it is blockbuster, escapist fantasy, which leaves a vacancy for smaller, grimmer flicks like Upgrade and Hotel Artemis to check into. Both are dystopian tales focusing on bleak futures. What distinguishes Hotel Artemis from its competitor is an all star cast, which allows the film to walk that razor fine line between cheesiness and gravitas.
Hotel Artemis (2018)
At the Hotel Artemis, The Nurse (Jodie Foster) runs a tight ship. She has to, as the hotel is an undercover hospital exclusively for criminals. The rules are simple: check your guns and any grudges you have at the door. Unfortunately for The Nurse and her orderly (Dave Bautista), near future Los Angeles is going to hell in a hand-basket tonight. And none of her new guests want to follow the rules. Gotta hate Wednesdays.
Los Angeles is Burning
I have to be honest, I’m not a giant fan of science fiction that doesn’t use it’s science to say something. The setting and futuristic technology in Hotel Artemis do little to distinguish the film. The setting could have been moved from near collapse LA to any current lawless city with little change. There’s the token nod to oligarchy ruining America, but for all intents and purposes, this could be modern day Los Cabos or Caracas.
The technology once again does little but make the plot expedient. Nano-technology is used pretty much just to get important characters back on their feet for the next confrontation. Everything else is similarly expedient. People willingly implant bar codes to gain admission to the hotel with no commentary on the tech. And while 3-D printing is upgraded to make organs, the printer is once again just a useful way to get guns into a weaponless setting. It’s all very utilitarian.
That being said, the film does look the part. We start out in almost too bright futuristic settings, and slowly trudge to dark, grimy, and dilapidated. The hotel is seedy, rusted out, and claustrophobic. The cinematography does a good job of showing a decline of civility while also giving external stimulus to ratchet up the tension.
Hotel Artemis is always simmering. Uneasy alliances, behind the scenes betrayals, and barely checked aggression constantly wash over the audience. The grounding element keeping all this emotion from being exhausting is The Nurse. Jodie Foster does a wonderful job of grounding the tension by taking it all into her character. These may be criminals, but Foster makes the proceeding sympathetic. This is an ER, and she is constantly bouncing around providing both physical and mental triage to her wards.
Her character provides relief for the audience by proxy. She’s got her own problems, but she’s got a job to do, and she copes in very human ways: a little music, a little booze, and a trite self help audio-book. While the world burns around her, she reassures us that life’s gotta keep on keeping on.
The cast around her are a mixed bag. Sterling K. Brown is our designated survivor: he’s smart, pragmatic, and sympathetic. While The Nurse keeps the wheels on the bus, he’s our eyes on the exit should those wheels fall off. Dave Bautista gives a nice performance as The Nurse’s oderly: he’s caring, protective, and just a touch sardonic. I was expecting a little too much jokiness from Bautista, but luckily Drax keeps it low key here (as low key as anything in this movie can get).
Then there’s the not so supportive supporting cast. I really liked Sofia Boutella in The Mummy, and was looking forward to her next role. She didn’t live up to expectations. She’s all glowers and cliche tough talk; I didn’t buy her for a second as Sterling K. Brown’s former flame. While she does make ammends for her one tone performance by way of kicking a ton of ass at the end, this wasn’t the next step in her career that I was lookng for.
Charlie Day plays another resident of the Hotel Artemis, and I couldn’t stand him. I know that’s how the script wanted me to feel about him, but the performance was too over the top for even that. If everyone else was a big dog warily eyeing potential threats, he was the annoying Chihuahua yapping at everything that moved.
And then there was Jeff Goldblum….
Goldblum Gonna Goldblum
I like the cheesy, eccentric ball of weird sounds that is Jeff Goldblum, but his casting in Hotel Artemis seemed like a poorly thought out marketing gimmick. Everything else is so intense in this film, and then a Jeff Goldblum™ character threatened to turn it all into farce. His character is the central boogeyman that every other criminal hinges on, yet it doesn’t land. I get that they were going for Joker-esque calm menace with the character, but that really isn’t in Goldblum’s range. Instead, he came off as quippy and detached.
Jeff Goldblum’s character and retinue (lead by Zachary Quinto) didn’t have the payoff that all the preceeding dread was building towards. Once he arrives, the movie pretty much becomes a madhouse of violence. It wasn’t entirely unsatisfying, but it really moved the tone 180 degrees from everything that came before. Thankfully, the final pivot goes right back onto The Nurse’s shoulders, and Jodie Foster carries the film home.
The Road to Wellville Is Paved with Good Intentions
Hotel Artemis is a decent film about a hospital masquerading as a hotel that becomes an insane asylum for ten minutes. It is a slow cooker that boils over, sets the range on fire, then somehow miraculously manages to taste good. For that we have two chefs to thank. Jodie Foster and Sterling K. Brown give standout performances that tie the entire affair together.
Hotel Artemis won’t be for everyone, but if you want a little flash and sizzle, the Hotel Artemis is serving up a mean stew. Just ask for the Wednesday special.