HOTEL ARTEMIS ½
R, 91 mins.
2018, R, 91 mins.
Jodie Foster as Jean Thomas / The Nurse / Dave Bautista as Everest / Sofia Boutella as Nice / Jeff Goldblum as The Wolf King / Niagara / Sterling K. Brown as Waikiki / Jenny Slate as Morgan / Charlie Day as Acapulco / Evan Jones as Trojan / Brian Tyree Henry as Honolulu / Kenneth Choi / Nathan Davis Jr. as Ricardo / Ramses Jimenez as Tariq
Written and directed by Drew Pearce
ARTEMIS belongs on a list of films that I like to call PWP efforts: ones
that have a great premise without payoff.
new cyberpunk futuristic sci-fi thriller from writer/director Drew Pearce
(making his feature filmmaking debut), who has devised a mostly unique
concept for his dystopian film, which also benefits from a very strong
ensemble cast, a swift and assured momentum, and a low-rent vibe and feel
that somehow doesn't feel like disposable B-grade junk food.
For as efficiently produced as the film is, HOTEL ARTEMIS
nevertheless fails to have any longstanding lingering power well after
seeing it, which is a small shame, especially for how stylish and visually
intoxicating Pearce makes his violently oppressive world of tomorrow.
over the course of one long night in the not-to-distant future of 2028
L.A., the film opens by introducing us to its bleak world of
violent city wide protests, which make the streets all but unliveable.
Realizing that the police are usually tied up with mass rioters and
looters littering the fire engulfed streets of the City of Angels, one
four man bank robbing crew - led by brothers Sterling K. Brown and Brian
Tyree Henry) - try to crack a very tricky vault at one well secured financial
institution, even taking hostages in the process.
Realizing that they are getting nowhere fast, the band of crooks end
up resorting to petty theft by stealing the hostage's belongings and make
their way into the dangerous streets, but find themselves getting into a
bloody gun battle with local cops.
Two of the crew dies, leaving the two siblings alive to escape
police capture and seek refuge anywhere they can.
manage to make their way to the Hotel Artemis, which is overseen by "The
Nurse" Jean Thomas (Jodie Foster) and her muscle bound right hand man, the
very appropriately named Everest (Dave Batista).
They hotel isn't any ordinary one, though, seeing as it's a
fortress-like, members-only club for high ranking criminals that can
afford to pay the Nurse her high fees to seek entry and medical care.
The 22 year old establishment is nearing full capacity, but Jean
lets in the bank robbing brothers, with one of them horribly wounded and needing
Some of the other "clients" in the hotel round off the
film's motley criminal crew, including Charlie Day's trash talking and
morally twisted arms dealer and a sexy French assassin for hire (Sofia
Boutella), who's in there to have a bullet wound in her arm taken care of.
It should be noted that while in the hotel its clients are given
theme rooms, which also serves as their code names (like Acapulco and
Things seem to be moving along normally for the Nurse, but a few
unexpected curveballs are thrown her way, like the appearance of a wounded
cop (Jenny Slate), who's admitted despite the establishment's "no
cops" policy, but mostly because the Nurse has a past with her.
Then there is The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), L.A.'s top crime boss
who funds the hospital that also has ties to the Nurse.
Complicating things ever further is the kindpin's hot heated son
(Zachary Quinto), who proves to be the proverbial loose canon that
threatens the stability of the hotel.
ARTEMIS doesn't squander any time on wasteful exposition and instead thrusts
viewers immediately into its oppressive world.
Pearce's screenplay is expeditious when it comes to introducing
audience members to the film's core premise and its menagerie of colorful rogues with minimal fuss.
Another impressive attribute on display here is the film's strong
production values on a limited budget, in particular the hotel itself,
which becomes an intriguing secondary character all on its own throughout
There's ample amounts of visual wit on display all throughout HOTEL
ARTEMIS, and Pearce demonstrates here - like, say, a John Carpenter before
him - how to make his film look sleek and polished with minimal resources.
It also could be argued that the film also borrows heavily from
Carpenter's stylistic playbook, with echoes of other post-apocalyptic fare
like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK reverberating all through the production.
There's a grungy level of verisimilitude on display here despite
the film's out-there and bizarre storyline.
has also assembled and wonderfully eclectic cast to help lead
the charge, chief among them Foster (making her first film as an actress
in five years), who has never looked so world weary and frankly haggard in a role before.
She brings a necessary level of performance presence and gravitas
to the film and acclimates herself well (interestingly, this marks back-to-back sci-fi outings for her after 2013's
Charlie Day brings his requisite level of twitchy and nervous
energy to his drugged up weapons seller, and Boutella is pitch perfectly
cast as her exotic and merciless killer.
Goldblum (who's somewhat underused here) generates some scenes of
dark comedy in his crime boss that's equally dangerous and quippy at the
And Dave Batista displays (as was the case with the two GUARDIANS
OF THE GALAXY films) how he can somehow fly in under the radar
and be a film's secret comedic weapon.
He more than facilitates his character's beefy brawn, but he also
is given some of the film's more juicy one liners, like when he's dealing
with some rather impatient guests by nonchalantly threatening, "See
that badge on me?
I'm a health care professional!"
also has some fun orchestrating a few of HOTEL ARTEMIS' wonderfully
choreographed and hellishly violent action sequences, such as an absolute
show-stopper featuring Boutella's slinky dress wearing mercenary taking out
swarm after swarm of murderous thugs with relative ease.
Again, the film has a sleazy grindhouse appeal that works well in
its favor, and as an atmospheric future noir Pearce crafts a dynamic
I think where HOTEL ARTEMIS is fundamentally lacking in is with its
underlining story, which - for as quickly as it doles out particulars of
its world and characters - never really feels more than a series of
arbitrarily sewn together vignettes in search of a larger and more
The film has colorful characters, a sense of macabre whimsy, and
thrillingly intense standoffs, but beyond that Pearce never makes a
compelling case for his rookie effort's long-term staying power.
Then there is the somewhat contrived nature of the larger riots
outside of the hotel, which are kind of conveniently introduced, then
abandoned, and then return to when Pearce wants to artificially drum up
And maybe HOTEL ARTEMIS is simply too nimble footed and short for its own good. I've usually been hard as of late on self indulgently bloated films that seem to go on forever (like the recent BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, a crime thriller that I liked, but it felt like an 140-plus minute endurance test), but at barely over 90 minutes HOTEL ARTEMIS has the nagging sensation of being a film that had either an awful lot edited out or simply not enough shot to flesh out its world building with satisfyingly rich strokes. I liked the overall hook of Pearce's first film, as well his sharply attuned skills at marrying ultra violence with ultra dark comedy (which is always a tricky dichotomy). Still, too much of HOTEL ARTEMIS seems like a rough first edit/draft work that could have benefited from more finesse and sense of completion. There are things to admire in this absurd sci-fi thriller and I liked some of its inspired core ideas, but the end result on display here ultimately doesn't come off as well rounded as it should have to convince moviegoers to buy their tickets and check in.