Hotel Artemis (2018)
Director: Drew Pearce
Writer: Drew Pearce
Starring: Jodie Foster, Sterling K Brown, Sofia Boutella, Pegg Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista
Set at the beginning of a dystopian United States in the year 2028, an infamous establishment fails into chaos during this futuristic ensemble crime thriller starring Charlie Day as an abrasive arms dealer, Sterling K Brown as a suave bank robber, and Jodie Foster as the owner of the infamous Hotel Artemis.
In reality, this particular hotel is actually a hospital, one which is specifically designed to cater for injured criminals on the run from the law... as long as they have paid their membership fees. One such criminal is Waikiki, played by Sterling K Brown, who brings his younger brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) to the hospital following a semi-successful armed-robbery. It is here where we enter the seedy world within the Hotel, as its various guests mingle under the care of The Nurse (Foster) while the city of Los Angeles is engulfed in a violent riot outside.
While the titular hotel seems to run like clock-work, this film does anything but that, and problems appear soon after the title-cards fade away. Very little context is offered to the viewer in order to introduce us to the new world we find ourselves in, an experience which turns out to be jarring rather than alluring; a lack of exposition is perfectly acceptable, as long as the rules and boundaries of the setting are made sufficiently clear - for Hotel Artemis, they are not. A few snippets of dialogue, as well as a few props, allude to the inner workings of this particular hotel, but never are we given a real opportunity to explore and learn about what appears to be a fascinating criminal enterprise. The external environment doesn't offer much more clarity; the outside riot which we periodically see tearing its way through the seedy Los Angeles of the future presumably suggests some element of time pressure, but the rarely translates into any sense of urgency within the confines of the hotel.
Similarly ill-explained are the film's characters, of which there are many. Initial guests at the hotel include, Charlie Day as Acapulco, Sofia Boutella as Nice and, later in the film, Jeff Goldblum waltzes in as The Wolf King, a feared gangster who supposedly controls much of the city of L.A. Also present is the aforementioned Waikiki and Honolulu, as well as Dave Bautista as the hospital's hulking orderly and Jenny Slate as an injured cop with a mysterious link to Foster's Nurse. And the line-up doesn't stop there.
Already it is obvious that Hotel Artemis is bursting at the seams, not helped by its modest 93 minute runtime. Too much is stuffed into this film, with a multitude of unfamiliar characters in an alien environment creating a chaotic and impenetrable scene which prevents any opportunity for exploration. As a result it is impossible to identify with any character, leaving us with no one to root for. We are supplied a few morsels of info about each resident or employee, but nothing which can pull them from two to three-dimensional.
Despite her performing pedigree, Jodie Foster delivers a remarkably disappointing performance as the hotel manager/nurse who simultaneously runs the hospital and cares for its patients. She is largely inaccessible as the main character of this story, unlikeable in both manner and personality throughout, as well as being given some of the worst dialogue in the film. She is the only character afforded any kind of backstory, but even this is only half-heartedly explored, with her one scene of emotional display feeling absurdly out of place, and not at all impactful.
Sterling K Brown delivers one of the few solid performances, and should have been given more of a central role instead of being diluted among the many others. Charlie Day is suitably obnoxious but entirely expendable as Acapulco the arms dealer, while the strand of plot-line centred around Sofia Boutella's Nice is disastrously under-explored, again diluted amongst the chaos within and outside of the Hotel. Dave Bautista's Everest, the dutiful but dubious orderly working for The Nurse, would perhaps have a greater contribution to the story if he was handed more than just some of the film's most dreadful dialogue, with the film neglecting to take advantage of quite a talented performer. Goldblum's performance is similarly underwhelming, with Hotel Artemis strangling his zany charm, while also failing to convince the audience that the rest of the casts' fear of him is at all warranted.
Hotel Artemis toys with some interesting ideas in an interesting setting, and attempts to explore these with an atypical but talented roster of exciting performers. All these quality ingredients struggle, however, to coalesce into a dynamic story with mysterious and idiosyncratic characters. This film is brimming with potential, and on paper should rival many other sci-fi crime thrillers, but instead it feels overstuffed and unambitious.
In one line: Despite a terrific cast list and a fascinating concept, Hotel Artemis isn't able to take advantage of this potential and provide a thrilling or interesting story.