There’s a lot to love about Hotel Artemis, which makes it so incredibly frustrating that it’s not an easy film to love as a whole.
Hotel Artemis is centered around an admittedly cool premise; here, that premise is that there is a hotel/hospital for criminals, where they can lay low and get patched up after jobs. The potential within that premise is ripe for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World type shenanigans, and Hotel Artemis certainly provides an absurd wishlist of a cast to supplement this premise. Here we have Jodie Foster as the nurse and proprietor of the title hotel. Over there, we have the always reliable Dave Bautista as the hospital orderly doubling as Foster’s muscle who is given most of the film’s best lines (“You see this badge? This means I am a HEALTH. CARE. PROFESSIONAL.”) yet not enough to do otherwise. Sterling K. Brown is here as a criminal trying to patch his brother (Bryan Tyree Henry, Atlanta) up after a con gone wrong. Charlie Day’s here, Sofia Boutella’s here, Zachary Quinto pops up for awhile, hey wait is that Jenny Slate, and then even the legendary Jeff Goldblum is here for an extended cameo as the Wolf King of Los Angeles.
All of this is fine and well, but much like The Purge did for the concept of, uh, the purge, Hotel Artemis suffers by centering on the wrong cool premise. The reason there is even a necessity for the hotel’s existence is because there is an actual apocalypse happening just outside its doors in the streets of L.A., exacerbated by the privatization of water.
To deprive audiences of the film that couples this cast with that premise is perverse, bordering on insane.
With what we are given, however, Artemis functions as a nifty chamber piece of sorts, with the cast often wandering from scene to scene in a layout that makes less sense the more you think about it; if this hotel is supposed to be a secret hideout, why is there a blinking neon sign on top? Still, the set design is a clear standout, with many of the rooms laid out in an art-deco-by-way-of-Crest-Westwood aesthetic, counter-pointed by an outside world that feels like Blade Runner if its vision of the future were closer to reality. These touches will surely be some of the clearer standouts to most audiences outside of casting, since this action-inspired film seems morbidly intent with providing little to no action.
For a film so rooted in action-packed genre trash nostalgia, it is alarming that there is one traditional action scene in the entire film, though fans of the John Wick and Daredevil franchises will delight in Sofia Boutella’s fight choreography in a late arriving hallway fight. There are small moments of action or violence here and there, with a clear crowd pleaser moment occurring involving a character’s death by 3D printer late in the film, but they are so few and far between that you wonder if this were truly the kind of film that Drew Pearce (previously a writer for Iron Man 3 and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) really wanted to make.
HOTEL ARTEMIS is an embarrassment of riches but due to the low stakes story being overshadowed by a cooler one literally just outside its doors, it suffers on account of never quite feeling like it matters enough. It’s most definitely worth watching on account of the cast, all of whom seem to be having a blast playing out various fun crime movie cliches, but you’ll more than likely wonder what the point of any of this is when the drama is laid on with too thick a layer of cheese over a very thin layer of action.
Hotel Artemis will be in theaters nationwide June 8, 2018. You can find showtimes here.