Our story takes place about 10 years from now in Los Angeles when the government puts a huge crack down on water and electricity, causing the bottom 99% to riot against the city. Meet two brothers (Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry) who are trying to rob a bank with a couple other goons. Unable to get into the vault, they realize all their hostages are gardeners and maids bringing money and valuables to the bank for their bosses… so rob them instead. During their escape, there’s a shootout with the cops leaving one goon dead, one with a whole in his neck, and one brother bleeding out. The surviving brother (Sterling K Brown) makes a call to get them an appointment at Hotel Artemis – a secret “hospital” for criminals that’s run by The Nurse (Jodie Foster) and her loyal assistant Everest (Dave Bautista). The brothers get the code names Waikiki and Honolulu.
Also at the Hotel Artemis are assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella) and millionaire Acapulco (Charlie Day). The Nurse gets a heads up that The Wolf Of Los Angeles (Jeff Goldblum) is on his way to get patched up, but when The Nurse tells his son (Zachary Quinto) she can’t hold a room for him – despite The Wolf owning the Hotel Artemis – the building finds itself under siege by the mob. To make matters worse, a low-level cop (Jenny Slate) shows up with bad injuries and The Nurse decides to bring her in for care when she recognizes her as the childhood friend of her deceased son. Tensions rise among everyone in Hotel Artemis as the night progresses, and they all test The Nurse’s #1 rule: Do not kill other guests of Hotel Artemis.
Hotel Artemis has lots of character and plot twists along the way that keep you second guessing what’s going to happen throughout the night. It seems like everyone is connected to each other in some way, which adds to the mounting tension all around. With so many new obstacles popping up, there’s never a dull moment during this film’s already breezy 93-minute runtime.
That being said, some may find this movie hard to watch, which could be its death knell for any chance of success at the box-office. In a world of superhero movies and Star Wars prequel-ish installments, where can a movie about criminals seeking medical attention find its foothold? Especially coming out the same weekend as another star-studded criminal movie like Ocean’s 8. When everyone is technically the bad guy, there’s not much to root for.
The only character one could potentially latch onto is The Nurse. You have to feel sorry for her, still grieving over the loss of her son (despite it being some 22 years ago), having incapacitating anxiety over even the idea of going outside the hotel, being almost OCD about the rules in place, yet still having the strength of character and hardened will to take charge in a building filled with lowlifes and scum. Despite all that The Nurse has going for her, I never really cliqued with her because of Jody Foster’s surprisingly weak performance. Every monologue felt like a public reading, every bit of banter felt rehearsed and even her ticks and the way she walked felt overly practiced rather than an actual character. I was disappointed.
I’d even go so far as to say that all the actors involved gave weak performances. Zachary Quinto gives a melodramatic monologue that makes the audience roll their eyes, Sterling K Brown felt unimportant and not nearly as fluid as his role on NBC’s This Is Us, Dave Bautista wasn’t nearly as amusing in this toned-down role as he was in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and even the short appearance of Jeff Goldblum, fresh from Thor: Ragnarok, felt lackluster. Nobody really had a chance to shine.
Part of this could also be the script from writer Drew Pearce (Ironman 3) who also directed. With this stellar cast as his disposal, and he still failed to write any memorable characters for them to portray. Likewise, he took what should have been a fantastic premise filled with obstacles and conflict galore and made it almost bland, like something you’d get from Redbox than a theater-worthy blockbuster.
While Hotel Artemis is a great concept that flows smoothly from start to finish and never feels boring, the characters and story itself feel like watered down versions of what they could have been, leading to otherwise great actors essentially phoning in their performances. With so much talent both onscreen and off, I can’t help but feel like the film could’ve been much more than it is. I’d recommend waiting until this one makes its way home before settling in for the night.