Screenwriter Drew Pearce’s feature film directorial debut, Hotel Artemis, is a bizarre action thriller/sci-fi medical drama elevated by an impressive performance by Jodie Foster. Two-time Oscar winner Foster delivers a quirky yet mesmerizing performance as the head of a secret members-only emergency clinic for criminals.
Foster plays Nurse, the agoraphobic leader of Hotel Artemis. Her world-weary appearance and shuffling gait corroborate the fact she’s spent decades inside the walls of Hotel Artemis. Nurse presides over the clinic disguised as a hotel with an iron thumb. No one is allowed inside the gated hotel floor if they’re not up-to-date on their membership fees. There’s a John Wick hotel vibe to the place reflected in the lengthy list of rules which include warnings to not abuse the staff or attack fellow patients.
For the sake of anonymity, the patients are referred to by the name of the room they’re assigned. As rioting breaks out and the city of Los Angeles burns, the criminals fortunate enough to secure rooms to heal their injuries include Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown), Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry), Nice (Sofia Boutella), and Acapulco (Charlie Day).
Waikiki and Honolulu are brothers who were involved in a bank robbery in which they accidentally stole millions in diamonds from the Wolf King of Malibu (Jeff Goldblum). Acapulco’s an arms dealer with a facial injury, and Nice is a French assassin who only kills the biggest marks. Helping Nurse run the place is Everest (Dave Bautista), an orderly who takes an exorbitant amount of pride in his medical career and in enforcing Hotel Artemis’ rules. If he needs to physically reprimand rule breakers, he’s more than up to the task.
In an unfortunate turn of events, the Hotel Artemis’ owner – the Wolf King – is gravely wounded and needs a room. With the electricity failing, the situation on the streets becoming increasingly dangerous, and the arrival of the Wolf King, the patients being treated at the Hotel Artemis appear determined to break every single rule.
It’s not until the film concludes that the simplicity of the story becomes apparent. Most of the movie takes place within Hotel Artemis’ walls, except for occasional flashbacks to fill in Nurse’s backstory and brief excursions to the immediate exterior of the building. Yet strangely for a film set in the midst of a riot, there are only a few action sequences. Hotel Artemis is more about defining and developing this motley assortment of characters than slamming them into each other. Although, that said, there is one incredible action sequence that spotlights Sofia Boutella’s character. She’s fierce and brutal, daring the Wolf King’s many men to cross a line she’s literally drawn on the floor.
Charlie Day steps out of his usual goofball characters to play a hostile creep who assumes he’s better than his fellow patients. This Is Us’ Sterling K. Brown makes Waikiki into a compelling antihero and one of the characters you’ll root for to survive the night.
Hotel Artemis is an entertaining alternative to the standard summer popcorn fare. The cast is terrific, the film’s pacing is swift, and writer/director Drew Pearce and his team have created visually impressive environments both on the streets of 2028 Los Angeles and inside the walls of the titular hotel.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references, and brief drug use
Running Time: 97 minutes
Release Date: June 8, 2018