“Hotel Artemis,” the directorial debut from writer Drew Pearce, takes place in a futuristic 2028 Los Angeles which has been stormed by rioters. There is a national shortage on water, which has caused all-out chaos between the rich, the poor and the police.
The Hotel Artemis is one of the last sanctuaries in this ravaged LA. The Artemis serves as a secret hospital and safe haven for those who can afford a membership. The clientele runs the gamut of shady characters from thieves and crime lords to assassins and arms dealers.
The plot of the film focuses on one night at the Artemis. We follow The Nurse, played by Jodie Foster, who runs the Artemis on a daily basis treating gun shots and other various ailments. Throughout the night we are introduced to various unique characters who are the Artemis’ guests.
The world the film creates is interesting, but hard to buy. A lot of the technology in the film seems far fetched for only being a decade from present day and it is hard to believe in riots of this magnitude. Plus the vague reason they give behind these riots is equally unbelievable, where companies have gained a monopoly on clean water.
However, the truth is the outside world isn’t the focus of the film, but rather the Artemis itself. So it is best to put the ill logic of the setting on the back burner and focus on the Artemis and who inhabits it.
The characters who occupy the Artemis are the highlight of the film and they are brought to life by a tremendous cast. The movie is led by the Academy Award winner Foster and supported by an ensemble including Sterling K. Brown, Dave Bautista, Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day and the effervescent Jeff Goldblum.
All the performances are strong. Foster, who is starring in a film for the first time since 2014, is the heart of the movie and carries the film well. She has some comedy that doesn’t land, but her character is the most relatable of the bunch.
The other characters are more hit and miss, but they are all compelling in their own ways. Brown is great as Waikiki, who is at the Artemis after a botched bank heist where his brother, played by Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”), got shot and is on life support. Charlie Day plays the jerk arms dealer Acapulco, and is good for some laughs.
The rest of the characters at the Artemis are entertaining, but felt underdeveloped. The French seductive assassin Nice, portrayed by Boutella, is a badass, but could have used more of a backstory. Everest, the protector of the Artemis, played by Bautista, ends up feeling like an errand boy. Goldblum’s performance as the The Wolf King is charismatic, but short-lived.
The sandbox these characters play in is great. The Artemis is a unique setting, and has a great atmosphere. It feels completely detached from the outside, ravaged world, and can feel claustrophobic at times. The set design is fantastic. It has a retro feel and reminds me of a vault from the Fallout series of video games. Plus the cinematography does a good job with its small setting, always finding a new way to shoot the interactions between the characters and the action.
Speaking of the action in the film, it shows potential, but is inconsistent overall. It isn’t a film where the action takes center stage like “John Wick.” The lack of consistent, awe-inspiring action may be a bummer for some, but it wasn’t a huge issue for me since my care was placed with the characters. However, towards the end of the film it picks up with some terrific set pieces, especially one involving Nice.
Lastly, the action is elevated by some gritty violence. The violence in these action scenes is shocking, but ultimately never gratuitous. It isn’t overly bloody, but is used effectively, and some kills in the latter half of the movie are very satisfying to witness.
“Hotel Artemis” is made enjoyable by its light comedy, tight atmosphere, visceral action and superb cast. If you can get past the film’s slow start, and buy into the ridiculous, dark world, there is much to like here.