Movie Review: Hotel Artemis

A dystopian cyberpunk crime drama reaches for cult film status

Hotel Artemis
Directed by Drew Pearce
With Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista

The future looks like a pretty bleak place. The futuristic neo-noir film Hotel Artemis takes us to Los Angeles in the near future when expensive privatized water causes riots and chaos rules the streets.

That is just the backdrop, though. The bulk of this dystopian vision takes place in a run-down tropical-themed Art Deco hotel used exclusively by high-class criminals who are injured and can't go to a hospital.

The main plus, aside from the set design, is Jodie Foster in a starring role as The Nurse, a woman who has had her share of trouble in the past and now practices high-tech medicine without a license.

The hotel has several futuristic medical devices including a 3D printer for organs and some sort of laser beam that fuses wounds closed.

She patches up the criminals out of some sense of doing humanitarian work.

The concept behind the perhaps too clever plot is that a colorful array of underworld types, all up to various shades of no good, will be trapped while the water riots rage outside.

It is not unlike classic films with characters stuck together on a ship or in an isolated house.

Hotel Artemis, though, quickly turns out to be mostly a pastiche of other films. The future Los Angles of Blade Runner, the riots of the Purge films, the exotic female assassin of La Femme Nikita, the secret hotels of the John Wick films, tech-thriller next-generation gadgets, generic bank robbers on the run, mob bosses and other recognizable types.

The criminals are referred to by the names of their tropical-themed rooms, reminiscent of the code names used in Reservoir Dogs.

This doesn't mean the characters aren't interesting, just that they aren't very original.

The film has its own slang, and the hotel has a long list of membership rules. But of course, once someone says there are rules, there are those who would break them.

Jodie Foster, who has been acting since childhood, has only made a few appearances on screen in the past decade. The Nurse is a substantial role but not a glamorous one. The character has not aged well, and Foster shows her grungy side in ill-fitting clothes and a time-worn, seemingly makeup-free face (at least it looks that way).

The character is strong when it comes to enforcing the rules of the hotel, but vulnerable in other ways, which helps to fuel to plot. The complexities of her character are a cut above the rest of the B-movie ideas that fill out the film.

Coming to The Nurse's aid is a burly security guard called Everest (Dave Bautista). The role is another fairly generic one, but there is a bit of tenderness in it as well. The relationship between The Nurse and Everest goes back a long way and the two rely on each other for emotional support among all the daily trials.

Dave Bautista, who like Dwayne Johnson was a pro wrestler, has an imposing presence but a laid-back demeanor. If the name doesn't ring a bell, he plays Drax the Destroyer in the Guardians of the Galaxy films and Avengers: Infinity War. He also made appearances in Blade Runner 2049, and can currently be seen in Escape Plan 2: Hades.

As Everest, he is a bit like Drax but without the dry humor.

Jeff Goldblum, recently seen briefly in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, has fairly small role even though his name is prominent in the credits. He is a weak link as a mob boss, not exuding the proper sociopathic sense.

Perhaps the filmmakers were trying to go against the stereotypes by having a sympathetic sociopath but made a bit of miss.

Hotel Artemis clearly was aimed at becoming a cult movie, with its quirky setting, flashes if brutal violence and trendy cast. It has many of the right elements but doesn't quite sparkle with enough of a distinctive quality.
Older actresses seldom get unsubstantial roles, though, and futuristic sci-fi fans should still check it out for Foster's performance.

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