Updated: Feb 6, 2020
There are few original ideas left that have not already been made. It is refreshing to see something new, even if it is just a clever twist on something old. I get excited when a movie looks like it is going to be different. I also get really disappointed when a good original idea is completely wasted on a lame story. Such is the case with Hotel Artemis, an action thriller that takes place in the near future at an emergency room for criminals. It starts with a promising concept and a great cast then proceeds to do very little with them.
The film is set in riot torn Los Angeles in 2028, though I have no clue why. Perhaps there was an intention to insert some social or political commentary into the story, but there really is not any. It is just another half-baked idea in a production full of them. The title location is a place where criminals can find safe haven and get fixed up after a bad job or whatever. It is run by The Nurse, played by Jodie Foster of all people. Foster has a lot to do in the role, but none of it is particularly interesting. However, that is no fault of hers. She has fun with it and does the best she can. Sadly, the film spins its wheels for so long that it begins to repeat itself before the plot can get anywhere. There is so much setup for so little payoff.
Hotel Artemis opens with a bank robbery gone wrong. Waikiki brings his brother, Honolulu, to the hotel after they are both shot making their getaway (in the interest of anonymity, the guests are known by the name of the suite they are staying in). They are played by the very talented Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry. I would love to see them play brothers in a movie where they actually get to do that. Henry mainly lays in bed while Brown gets to give a lot of speeches. He makes basically everything he says compelling even though none of it ends up meaning anything.
They are joined in this exclusive hospital by the assassin Nice and the obnoxious arms dealer Acapulco. Sofia Boutella plays the assassin as someone more knowledgeable about what is going on than anyone else. Maybe even the filmmakers. Meanwhile, Charlie Day is so obnoxious as Acapulco that I wish there had been less of him. Dave Bautista pops up as an orderly named Everest. He gets a few amusing lines and then stands around looking tough. Which is something he is very good at. Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto and Jeff Goldblum are also in the cast and they are as wasted as the other actors.
There is potential here. The premise is intriguing, the cast is great and most of the characters seem far more interesting than what the movie allows them to do. Hotel Artemis is not a bad film, just a frustrating and boring one (its 86 minutes (minus the final credits) go by quite slowly). There is so much it could have done with the pieces it assembles. It even has three different major plot threads. But they are each resolved in dull and predictable ways.
This is the feature directorial debut for screenwriter Drew Pearce. He stuffed a lot of things into this screenplay and created a pretty cool world. Unfortunately, he lets it sit there. Maybe he was so eager to be making it that he was afraid to do anything risky with the story. Or anything at all. Regardless of the reason, Hotel Artemis is a huge disappointment.
2½ out of 5
Jodie Foster as The Nurse
Sterling K. Brown as Waikiki
Sofia Boutella as Nice
Charlie Day as Acapulco
Brian Tyree Henry as Honolulu
Jenny Slate as Morgan
Jeff Goldblum as Niagara
Dave Bautista as Everest
Zachary Quinto as Crosby Franklin
Written and Directed by Drew Pearce