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Saturday, June 09, 2018

Hotel Artemis

With a fairly unique premise and an interesting start-studded cast, one would hope that Hotel Artemis would be that rare summer action film that truly grabs your attention.  But in the hands of veteran screenwriter and first-time director, Drew Pearce, the movie ultimately ends up becoming fairly forgettable and slight.  There is some strong talent here, and a few good ideas, but they never rise above a script that fails to make us care about these people.

The story is set in 2028, and finds the city of L.A. in the middle of a massive riot that has spilled out onto the streets due to a water shortage.  A greedy corporation has control over the water supply, and are only doling it out to a privileged few.  It's an interesting nightmarish scenario, but unfortunately, the film treats it only as a backdrop for the action, which is set within the walls of the Hotel Artemis, which is actually a secret hospital for criminals who get specialized care from a world-weary Nurse (Jodie Foster, in her first screen role in five years), and her massive orderly who goes by the name of Everest (Dave Bautista from Guardians of the Galaxy).  There are certain rules that the Nurse adheres by at her clinic.  You must be a member to gain access, no guns are allowed, no cops are admitted within, and no killing of the other patients, so criminals must leave their rivalries and personal grudges at the door. 

If you guess that all of those rules are going to be broken as a number of "guests" descend upon the Hotel during this night of rioting, you would be right.  The first to arrive are wounded brothers Sherman (Sterling K. Brown from This is Us) and Lev (Brian Tyree Henry from Atlanta), who just escaped from a botched bank job, and got involved in a shootout with police during their escape.  A master assassin (Sofia Boutella) is there as well, and she has an obvious agenda for being at the Artemis, which will be made clear as the night goes on.  Also present is an obnoxious arms dealer (a very obnoxious Charlie Day), who seems to want to pick a fight with everyone he comes in contact with.  Things become even more intense when the crime lord who owns the Hotel (Jeff Goldblum) has to be checked in, and his violent and trigger-happy son (Zachary Quinto) is a hot-head who doesn't like to follow orders or listen to anyone other than his father.

We also get a subplot involving the Nurse having to make a personal decision when a wounded police officer (Jenny Slate) turns up at the door, demanding to be let in.  It seems that she has a history with the officer, and the Nurse finds that she must break her own rule of no cops being allowed inside, and has to do her best to hide her from the rest of her clients.  To its credit, the movie does move at a pretty good pace, but that's mostly because Pearce never slows down long enough to develop any of his characters.  We do get a tragic backstory for the Nurse, and how she has never set foot outside of the building for decades, but it never quite strikes the right emotional chord, despite the best efforts of Foster, who is clearly trying to make something out of her character. 

Despite its large and diverse cast, Hotel Artemis sadly is not that interested in creating some people we can get behind or complex relationships.  Instead, the movie fills itself with endless shootouts and bloodshed, as well as just about every four-letter word repeated over and over making up a majority of the dialogue.  The movie has plenty of opportunities to create interesting scenes, as these criminals from different walks of life and of different degrees of power within the crime world find themselves in the same place, and eventually having to trust and or fight one another as the evening turns chaotic and violent.  Sadly, the movie never quite grabs this potential, and simply turns into just another action film that just so happens to have a better than average cast than you might expect.

If I must be honest, I did admire the design of the grungy Hotel where the action is set, and there are some interesting song selections on the soundtrack.  There's even a darkly comical moment or two that the film could have used more of.  But these positives can't hide the fact that Hotel Artemis should have been a lot more interesting, and should have done more with the cast that it managed to attract.

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