On June 21, 2028, a riot breaks out in Los Angeles over the affordability and availability of water after it is privatized. Taking advantage of the distraction, a four-man crew of brothers Sherman and Lev and miscreants Buke and P-22 rob a bank. Unable to break into the vault, they steal from hostages at the bank, realizing that they were mainly staff of the wealthy sent to deposit valuables into the vault. Lev takes a male hostage's fancy pen despite being warned by the man not to. During their escape, an encounter with the police leaves P-22 dead and Buke and Lev critically wounded. They make their way to the nearby Hotel Artemis, a hotel/hospital that only treats criminals, run by Jean "the Nurse" Thomas. The Hotel only treats members who are paid-up in advance, so Sherman and Lev are allowed in while Buke as a non-member is kicked out by Everest, the Nurse's assistant. At the Hotel are two other guests. Code names for all guests are assigned based on the suite they are occupying. ...
Aesthetically pleasing, but the narrative is predictable and clichéd
Hotel Artemis is a film which doesn't do a great deal wrong. However, it is also a film which doesn't do a great deal right. It just kind of hangs in mid-air, with clichéd characters acting in clichéd ways and having clichéd conversations. And then it ends. It's not actually about anything. It's also predictable, with precious little substance. It looks pretty though.
In 2028, riots are tearing Los Angeles apart. The film takes place primarily in the eponymous Hotel Artemis, a secret hospital for criminals in the heart of the city. The motley crew of characters, many of whom are known only by the name of the room in which they're staying, include Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry), bank robbers who have been involved in a shootout with police; Nice (Sofia Boutella), an assassin who "only kills important people", and just so happens to be Waikiki's ex-girlfriend; and Acapulco (a spectacularly miscast Charlie Day), a weapons dealer and all round weasel. Also present are The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), Los Angeles's most feared gangster, who also finances the hospital; his incompetent son, Crosby (an underutilised Zachary Quinto); and Morgan (Jenny Slate), a cop injured in the riots. The hospital is run by "Nurse" (Jodie Foster), an agoraphobic alcoholic haunted by visions of her past, with porter duties handled by Everest (Dave Bautista). The hospital functions because all guests must adhere to a rigid set of rules (the first of which is "don't kill the other patients") and a strict no weapons policy.
Sounds pretty interesting doesn't it? It's not. The dialogue is awful, the narrative beats can be seen coming a mile away, and the characters are all architypes, with only Nurse really fleshed out to any degree. There's the loud-mouth snivelling weapons dealer, the gorgeous but oh-so-deadly assassin, the criminal kingpin and his screw-up son who just wants to be like dad, the skilled bank robber who spends most of his time trying to get himself out of the trouble caused by his unreliable brother, and the tough-as-old-boots medical professional who just wants to help people when in actual fact, she's beyond help herself. The premise may be reasonably interesting, but, in his debut feature, writer/director Drew Pearce undermines it by populating the milieu with cardboard cut-outs instead of characters. True, most of the actors give it their all (Bautista in particular gives a performance far superior to the material with which he has to work), but there's just no substance here, no depth. There are simply too many clichés at every level to be able to overlook them.
Yes, it's an original(ish) idea made with a small(ish) budget, which is exactly what we need more of these days, when every second film is a CGI-infested remake, comic book adaptation, or sequel (or a CGI-infested remake of a sequel to a comic book adaptation). However, an original idea is all very well and good, but it can only take you so far; the execution has to be there as well, and this is where Hotel Artemis falls down. It's simply not an especially well-made film. Pearce does a reasonably good job with the directorial side of things, as aesthetically, the hotel is really intriguing, with a nice use of primary colours and a well-conceived juxtaposition of modern technology and 3D printers with retro décor and secret passages. In terms of plot, however, there's just nothing to latch onto or get your teeth into. None of the characters really do or say anything very interesting, and a half-hour into the film, as it became increasingly apparent that none of them were going to be developed to any great degree, I just stopped caring.
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