‘Hotel Artemis’ commits one of the greatest cinematic sins: not going far enough. The film has seemingly everything going for it. It has a good setup for the plot, an exceptional cast, and high concept artistic design. But in failing to wade far enough into its own genre, it ultimately becomes the vanilla ice cream of summer flicks.
The movie takes place entirely in near future (2028) Los Angeles in the middle of a city-spanning riot. While tensions mount outside, it’s business as usual inside the Hotel Artemis. The hotel is a hybrid hospital and hotel for discerning criminals who need the occasional medical repair away from typical hospital infrastructure. The live-in nurse (Jodie Foster) runs a tight ship and is aided only by her orderly, Everest (Dave Bautista).
On this particular night, the guests are Acapulco (Charlie Day) and Nice (Sofia Boutella). After a botched bank heist, brothers Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) arrive hoping that the Nurse can save them. With the codenames and inflated egos of these successful criminals, we’re already set up for a night of mayhem and funny business.
Here’s where everything in ‘Hotel Artemis’ falls apart. So many coincidences and elements swirl around the hotel and the bottom-feeding clientele, but the film fails to pull the trigger in making all of these pieces fall into place like a puzzle. Too many variables are just left hanging, and not enough are tied together, which makes the film lack cohesion and a grand scheme. The story could have somehow tied the riots to one of the hotel guests (the riots are due to a water shortage, not race or police brutality), but instead they’re just a tense backdrop. And when a cop (Jenny Slate) shows up to beg the Nurse for help, her entire story arc really has nothing to do with anything in the film. Why even bother? There’s no graceful mastermind pulling the marionette strings on all of these characters, no higher acts of coincidence or cinematically blessed serendipity. It’s all just a few ingredients mixed together for no real reason.
Though the film suffers from a lack of strong story and directorial vision, it has solid performances and some pretty excellent art design. Foster and Day do their best with what they’re given, and even seem to have some fun chewing the stylish scenery. Thankfully, the film does not waste Boutella’s fighting skills, though they do come a bit late.
The design of the hotel itself and the medical marvels within buoyed my attention enough so that I never felt bored. The nano technology, 3D organ printing, and spray-on skin grafts all look amazing, and help enhance the world of the film. All of this innovation is set within the Art Deco decadence of the hotel. The contrast between modern medicine and interior Hollywood glamor is a production choice crying out for a much more deserving film.
‘Hotel Artemis’ is not so fatally flawed that it collapses in on itself. It just never reaches the potential that it should have achieved. With a stronger voice, it could have rivaled the criminal world of ‘John Wick’. Unfortunately, it never gets anywhere close.