Amidst a future Los Angeles plagued by a water shortage stands a monolithic hotel that caters for the high-paying and frequently injured criminal underbelly of the city. Jodie Foster’s concierge-cum-nurse is at the centre of it all as her surface calmness, and indeed the status quo of the hotel, starts to spiral out of control
The Nurse, as Foster’s character is appropriately named, hides her crippling anxiety and past traumas behind a cocky exterior which helps her run the felonious hotspot of LA – which she hasn’t stepped outside of for a couple of decades – with a matronly coolness. Helping her maintain the high-pressures of Hotel Artemis is the unsubtly named Everest (Dave Bautista) who does what Bautista always does: uses muscle and an inherent charm to protect his loyal companions.
This relationship provides the heart of the story, whilst other characters fail to develop into more than pretty basic caricatures. Charlie Day is the wealthy, coke-head misogynist who is erratic and selfish. Sofia Boutella is the sneaky, sultry spy who despite being villainous has a heart and an aptitude for kicking ass. Sterling K. Brown is the smooth-talker who is just looking out for his brother, and Jeff Goldblum is Jeff Goldblum.
Writer and director Drew Pearce sets up a Free Fire-esque situation where the tension between several different parties gradually builds and builds within a claustrophobic environment. This manages to be, at times, genuinely enthralling but is mostly let down by an outrageously hammy script which relies heavily on quips and the repeating of lines to define the nature of the characters. This leads to a performance from Foster which reminds us why all of her rare performances should be treasured with great nuance in her character’s more introspective moments and close-ups. It is however undercut by mawkish dialogue which consists of such phrases as “Everyone has their 18 wheeler day” and “Just another Wednesday at the Artemis”. This would be fine and pleasantly camp if it were not for the constant flickering between attempted emotional levity and all-out fun.
This desire to please all is why the film is mostly flat. It’s a very safe adventure with a gimmicky setting and a cast which feels as it’s been enlisted after a quick Google search of “Actor memes”. Jeff Goldblum plays Wolfking, or Niagara – an eccentric criminal overlord (Shock!) whose entrance is teased incessantly throughout the duration, for an in-it-for-the-paycheque amount of screen time. Charlie Day’s capriciousness lacks the charm of his usual performances and becomes insufferable all-too-quickly. The camera work also lacks imagination for a film with such a specific setting which does become rather tedious.
The third act is by far the strongest: a crimson-drenched showdown which finally relieves the previous hour or so of tension and provides some of the better choreographed scenes in the movie. This is the point where the film descends into an unapologetically fun spectacle and this is the tone that should have been aimed for from the get-go.
You will probably have fun when you check in to Hotel Artemis, but you’ll probably be left wishing for a more unique and satisfying experience – an Airbnb perhaps.
Words by Tom Williams
Image Credits by Warner Bros