Thursday, June 14, 2018

Movie Review: Hotel Artemis

Hotel Artemis *** / *****
Directed by: Drew Pearce.
Written by: Drew Pearce.
Starring: Jodie Foster (Jean Thomas / The Nurse), Sterling K. Brown (Waikiki/Sherman), Sofia Boutella (Nice), Jeff Goldblum (The Wolf King / Niagara), Brian Tyree Henry (Honolulu), Jenny Slate (Morgan), Zachary Quinto (Crosby Franklin), Charlie Day (Acapulco), Dave Bautista (Everest), Kenneth Choi (Buke).
Hotel Artemis reminded me of the type of movie I used to go see all the time that Hollywood doesn’t make much anymore. In the good old days of the later 1990s, early 2000s when every wide release movie didn’t have to be a sequel/prequel/remake/spinoff or part of some sort of Cinematic Universe. They used to make these mid-level, B action movies, filled with movie stars – or at least recognizable actors – that didn’t have a ton of ambition. Some of them were horrible, some were wonderful – and most were, like Hotel Artemis, mediocre. I would never have guessed at that point that one day I’d grow nostalgic for those film – most of them, I’ve probably forgotten completely. But studios don’t make a lot of these movies anymore – so when one comes out, you want it to be really good so they’ll keep making them. Hotel Artemis is just good enough to make me miss those days, but not good enough to be really memorable or convince anyone that they need to make more of these. But they do.
The film is set in L.A. in 2028 – and other than the opening bank robbery sequence, it takes place entirely inside (or just outside) the Hotel Artemis – which is kind of like The Continental in John Wick – a hotel for criminals, although this is also a hospital. The hotel is run by Jean Thomas (Jodie Foster), a nurse who uses her high tech medical devices to heal people rather quickly. The guests are anonymous – defined by room name – and currently there is Acapulco (Charlie Day) – a slimy arms dealer, and Nice (Sofia Boutella), a trained assassin. Arriving from the bank robbery gone wrong that opens the film is Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry). There is a riot going one outside – a corporation has cut off the city’s water supply, and people are not happy. Everest (David Bautista) is the orderly trying to keep the power on – and everyone in line. Outside the door is Crosby Franklin (Zachary Quinto) who wants to ensure his father The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), the gangster who runs the town, gets the last room left. This, and way more, start coming to a head over the course of one, long crazy night.
With a cast like this, you know the acting will at least be good – even if some of the people are basically going through the motions (Charlie Day does the same thing as always). It’s nice to see Jodie Foster on screen again – for the first time since 2013’s Elysium. She doesn’t dawn the kind of insane accent she did in that film, but she does have a strange walk. I’m starting to think she only does movies know for the sheer fun – the ability to do something weird in them, and I’m fully on board with that decision. She anchors the film, and yet unlike many main characters she is also perhaps the most eccentric character in the film.
The plot of the film does lack a certain momentum. Writer/director Drew Pearce spends too much time setting everything and everyone up, so by the time that is done, it’s just about time to start bringing everyone together, and the violence to kick in. What Pearce does excel at is some of the more technical aspects of the film – the Hotel itself is a great location, and while he takes too much time setting up the characters, he is very good at establishing the world we are in, without too much explanation. He is also good at the large set pieces – from something as seemingly simple of trying to get someone up an elevator and into the hotel without anyone noticing, to the various fight sequences that end the film. I want to see him direct a movie with a better screenplay next time.
Hotel Artemis moves fairly quickly, and is entertaining throughout, without ever quite reaching that next level – that level that takes a film from decent to very good. It’s a programmer – a time waster – but on that level, it works just fine. I wish studios would make more films like this – not because this one is great, but because we need more films like this that are self-contained and don’t take themselves so seriously, or worried about building a world to sustain 10 other films.

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