Oh, Hotel Artemis.
I had such high hopes for you.
Hotel Artemis, you may remember, was initially released way back in June and, at the time, it was advertised as being some sort of nonstop action thrill ride. The commercials made it look totally over-the-top and exciting, which was I wanted to see it. Of course, I didn’t see it because …. well, actually I don’t remember what was happening in June that kept me from going to the movies. But there had to have been something going on because I not only missed seeing Hotel Artemis in the theaters but I also missed Ocean’s 8 and Hereditary as well.
Well, regardless of why I missed it the first time, I did finally get a chance to watch Hotel Artemis earlier this week and, unfortunately, it turned out to not be anything special. It’s certainly not terrible. It has its moments and the film looks great but, at the same time, it’s hard not to feel somewhat let down by the film. Hotel Artemis has promise but much of its goes unrealized.
The film takes place in one of those vaguely defined futures where there’s a lot of rioting and a lot of militaristic cops. In fact, the film opens with Los Angeles in the middle of one such disturbance. The riot scenes attempt to go for a Purge-style intensity but, for the most part, they just kind of fall flat. There’s a lot of scenes of people yelling and occasionally, a police transport rolls by but, for the most part, there’s no danger to the film’s riot. It’s all just a bit too obviously choreographed. You never get the feeling that things could just randomly explode.
The Hotel Artemis is a combination of a hotel and a hospital. It’s run by Jean Thomas, who is better known as Nurse and who is played by Jodie Foster. Jean was once a doctor but, haunted by the death of her son, she became an alcoholic and lost her license to practice medicine. Severely agoraphobic, Jean has spent 22 years inside of the Hotel. She only treats criminals and other people on the fringes of society. Helping her is Everest (Dave Bautista), who helps to keep order in the often chaotic hotel.
All of Jean’s patients are given codenames, based on which room their occupying in the hotel. There’s Acapulco (Charlie Day), who is wealthy and short-tempered and who is waiting for a helicopter to come pick him up. And then there’s Nice (Sofia Boutella), an international assassin who gets to beat people while wearing this red gown that is absolutely to die for. There’s also Wakiki (Sterling K. Brown), who is a bank robber who is worried that his partner, Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry), is going to die from the wounds that he suffered during a robbery-gone-wrong. Further complicating things is a gangster named The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) and Morgan (Jenny Slate), who needs Jean’s help but who also happens to be a cop. Zachary Quinto is also in this film, playing the Wolf King’s son, because you really can’t make a pretentious genre film without giving a role to Zachary Quinto.
Anyway, there’s a pretty good action sequence towards the end of the film but it takes Hotel Artemis forever to get there. Before that, you have to deal with a lot of talking but, unfortunately, none of the conversations are particularly interesting. Hotel Artemis may clock in at 94 minutes but it feels considerably longer. On the plus side, the cast is big and interesting but, on the negative side, nobody really seems to be that invested in their role. It’s fun to watch Charlie Day play a bad guy but otherwise, the majority of the actors struggle with their thinly drawn (though certainly verbose) characters. The majority of them struggle to convince us that they’re anything more than a group of talented actors slumming it in an action movie. The fact that Jodie Foster received a good deal of praise for her performance in this film has everything to do with the fact that she’s Jodie Foster and little to do with anything that actually happens in the movie.
On a positive note, the movie looks great. Visually, the Hotel Artemis is a fantastic creation that combines the decaying luxury of The Shining with the claustrophobic sterility of an underground bunker in a Romero zombie film. (I’m thinking of the original Day of the Dead in particular.) The Hotel itself is so fascinating that you can’t help but kinda resent that the film seems to be more interested in the boring people inside of the building than with the building itself.
Despite the superior production design, the film itself is slackly paced and never quite as a clever as it seems to think that it is. Hotel Artemis is not a terrible film but it is a rather forgettable one. It’s hard not to feel that it could and should have been a hundred times better than it actually was.