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June 8, 2018

Check In To Hotel Artemis For Futuristic Fun Noir Action

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Written by: Gregg "Wonderllama" Snider
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In 2028 L.A., a greedy private corporation turns off the public water supply. Massive riots break out across the entire city. Private police companies with military-grade hardware gleefully use lethal force to quell the rioters.

It’s definitely not the best time to rob a bank. And when the heist inevitably gets people shot, criminals in need of a comfortable hide-out and discreet medical attention head to the Hotel Artemis.

Hotel Artemis is what happens when bad men and women are thrown together by circumstance. The latest from writer-director Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3), Hotel Artemis is a pulpy, funny, often bleakly noir sketch of a single night at a high-end members-only hotel-cum-medical clinic for criminals. It goes as well as you’d expect.

Hotel Artemis shares a blueprint with several classic “heists gone wrong” movies, akin to The Usual Suspects and Reservoir Dogs. Like the Tarantino classic, Hotel Artemis largely takes place inside a single space, albeit a large, well-equipped hotel. Crooks with nebulous pasts, varied motivations, and little compassion for one another are trapped together by circumstance and the need for medical care. Pearce is interested in the pressure-cooker aspect of this setup, but more from how that leads to violent high-velocity fight scenes than personal blowups.

Nice is not having a nice evening at the Hotel Artemis.

Nice is not having a nice evening at the Hotel Artemis.

After the aforementioned robbery goes sideways, Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) makes a reservation at the Hotel Artemis to get medical help for his brother, Honolulu. The hotel rules — no killing other guests, no assaulting the staff — ensure members’ anonymity by referring to them only by the name of their hotel suite. The Nurse, a brilliantly disheveled Jodie Foster, digs out bullets and 3D prints replacement organs. Loud-mouth arms dealer Acapulco (Charlie Day) and femme fatale Nice (Sofia Boutella) are current guests, recovering from their own injuries and trading vicious snark. Shadowy mob boss the Wolf King, played by Jeff Goldblum doing what he does best, strong-arms his way into the hotel. When injured cop Morgan (Jenny Slate) appears at the back door and adds yet another complication, all of the ingredients are in place for a high-stakes, tension-filled pressure cooker of a night.

This isn’t a movie that lives or dies on complex, intricate plotting. There’s just enough story to continually amp up the tension. And it is tense: the closeness of the hotel, the riots blocking the exits, and the close-quarters fight scenes add to the stress, while the camera work, full of close, tight shots in small spaces, and an effective, dramatic score apply even more pressure. While everyone has their own motivation, their own plan, their own exit strategy, there’s little character development, though that isn’t a critical failure here. All of the characters are a bit generic: the tired woman with a sad past, the gangster who just needs one more big score and then he’s out, the femme fatale with a heart of gold, the formidable giant of a man who wants to fix people but doesn’t mind cracking heads. The Nurse is given a painfully earnest backstory; it’s meant to humanize one of the only relatively noble characters and give her situation context, but it’s visually and tonally distracting.

In spite of the thinly drawn characters, the actors throw themselves into their roles with glee. Brown (Black Panther) gives a strong if muted performance as the unflappable Waikiki, a smart mid-level criminal whose main concern is his junkie brother. Dave Bautista (Blade Runner: 2049) continues to be a highlight in anything he’s in. He plays the put-upon but loyal orderly, Everest, with surprising emotion and the kind of dry, almost accidental humor he brought to Drax the Destroyer. Charlie Day (Pacific Rim) gets to play the most obnoxious, sexist version of every Charlie Day character; he chews the scenery with glee, and makes Acapulco one of the least-likable characters in years.

Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) sinks her teeth into the borderline cliched character of Nice. She exudes danger and a seductive European allure. Her vicious glee as she verbally crushes Acapulco is palpable, and fun as hell to watch. Goldblum (Thor: Ragnarok) is a force of nature. Even badly injured, wearing dad sandals, and waiting behind the locked gate to the Hotel, he radiates charismatic menace and suave self-confidence, every inch the Wolf King of L.A.

Unsurprisingly, the real star of Hotel Artemis is Foster (Silence of the Lambs). She inhabits a character like few other actors. While the guests at the Artemis are lions and wolves, her Nurse is an old guard dog, seemingly de-fanged but with an indomitable will, eager to please or to protect her own. She gives the Nurse real pathos, full of twitches and vocal tics, and a very deliberate walk that speaks volumes about her devotion to creating a fully realized character.

The Hotel Artemis itself is the other big star. Down at the heels but proud of its tatty luxury, it evokes a bygone age of LA glamour. It also sports some startlingly high-end medical tech, including a 3D printer capable of printing short-term replacement organs. The printer also plays a key role in helping break hotel rules, and a delightfully cringe-worthy scene.

Ultimately, Hotel Artemis is enjoyable as hell while you’re watching it, but thinking about it the next day reveals how thinly sketched the situations and characters are. It hardly matters: in a summer full of superheroes and sequels, an original movie, especially an enjoyably pulpy, big-budget noir with brilliant actors like Hotel Artemis, is a fun breath of fresh air.

Ephemera:

  • Zach Quinto’s mustache should get an Academy Award
  • I’ll never look at a 3D printer the same way

Hotel Artemis (The Ink Factory; rated R); B

 



About the Author

Gregg "Wonderllama" Snider





 
 

 
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