Hotel Artemis has the type of premise that strikes one as studio green light gold in a post-John Wick world. But whereas Wick’s Continental Hotel serves as a neutral site for a certain brand of lethal professional to find rest, room service, firearms and Kevlar-threaded tailoring, the titular building of director/writer Drew Pearce’s first full-length feature focuses a bit more on the recuperative side of hotel living. Run by The Nurse (Jodie Foster) with the help of Everest (Dave Bautista), her devoted, self-affirmed “health care professional,” Hotel Artemis is basically a hospital for the well-heeled criminal.
One night, things get complicated in a manner that involves guests (known by the name of the room they book) including “Waikiki” (Sterling K. Brown), “Nice” (Sofia Boutella), “Acapulco” (Charlie Day) and an arriving “Wolf King of L.A.” (Jeff Goldblum). (For some reason, this epithet for Goldblum’s character brought to mind “Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—I dream of a world where these two titans of crime and sausage, respectively, rub elbows at high-end resorts.)
Set in a near-future (2028) that’s filled with plot-lubing technology (nanite healing sprays, 3D-printed organs) and social unrest (water riots, corporate police states), Hotel Artemis is chock-full of quality pulp fiction ingredients in addition to its premise and cast—the movie even opens with that crime thriller staple, the heist gone sideways. But despite the ingredients at hand, Pearce and company never really pull it together in a manner that realizes the potential. The result is a pulp buffet that feels like it should have been a gourmet meal—a Golden Corral of genre conventions (that leaves the audience feeling about as satisfied).
The film’s stars do what they can—Brown is effective as a not-quite-protagonist (who one wishes had been the outright protagonist); Bautista brings his trademark presence (and humor) to his role; and Boutella continues her streak of “sexy bad-ass assassin” roles. The script itself is built around Jodie Foster’s Nurse, which proves a bit more problematic than one would expect, though for reasons not really in the actress’s control. In her genre-slumming debut, Foster gives her aged, bedraggled character an assortment of tics and traits to accompany action that’s molded around her, but ultimately her story is not that compelling. (But, oh, between often too on-the-nose dialogue and a healthy helping of flashback, how Pearce tries.)
The result is less misstep than near-miss, a casualty of a script that doesn’t quite recognize who (or what) should be the star of the show. Between Brown’s sleek, Michael Mann-minted criminal, the extremely underused Goldblum (fresh off his Ragnarok-fueled rebirth into the popular consciousness), the building itself, or just a differently balanced ensemble, it’s easy to imagine any number of stronger versions of Hotel Artemis. But then again, if all it took to make a great genre film were a healthy imagination, hard work and a team of professionals, we’d all do it.
Director: Drew Pearce
Writer: Drew Pearce
Starring: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista
Release Date: June 8, 2018
Michael Burgin is the Movies Editor of Paste. His most exotic club membership is AAA.