Set ten years in the future in a riot-torn California, ‘Hotel Artemis’ is gritty action thriller about a hotel, the titular Hotel Artemis, where criminals of every sort can pay a membership fee to use the hi-tech and futuristic facilities of the hotel to recuperate and heal from injuries sustained during their various illegal activities.
The hotel is staffed by The Nurse (Jodie Foster) and her all-around handyman Everest (Dave Bautista), and follows the events that happen on a particularly chaotic Wednesday night. California is in a war-like state as protests and riots have turned extremely violent, the people taking arms against a water company. The clever interplay of a socio-economic reality plays out as a backdrop to a fictional narrative about well-paid criminals seeking shelter and medical attention for injuries they probably deserve.
On this chaotic Wednesday night, the Hotel Artemis currently has three patients named after the rooms they are assigned: Nice (played by Sofia Boutella), Acapulco (Charlie Day), and Waikiki and Honolulu (Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry). Each of these criminals have their own reasons for being here, and all become involved as the night gets even more chaotic--the hotel is about to take in one more patient, a big time crime lord, who owns “half of California,” called Orion Franklin (Jeff Goldblum) and his son (Zachary Quinto).
Director and writer Drew Pearce builds the tension slowly, familiarizing us with the hotel, its occupants, and the rules. It’s a slow burn but Pearce continues to drop hints and clues about how interconnected everyone is in the story. He slowly develops each character, building the drama and the excitement for the inevitable explosion, laying down more and more triggers until the film reaches its climax, which blows up into a thrilling action sequence that is way more satisfying than expected.
Based on the trailer and the premise, one would expect a shallow, brainless action romp from ‘Hotel Artemis.’ What is most surprising is an emotional core that suddenly pops out as the characters are given a chance to reveal themselves. Serving as the heart of the film, The Nurse is the character with the strongest emotional resonance and is played wonderfully by Jodie Foster, who exudes The Nurse’s stone-cold professionalism with a hint of vulnerability that she effortlessly brings out at just the right moments. Foster’s The Nurse is old and weary, filled with anxiety, but there is an unmistakable strength that lies at her center, and Foster throws in an I’ve-seen-it-all facade that is instantly believable.
Boutella is as alluring as she is deadly but it is Sterling K. Brown and Dave Bautista who matches Foster scene-for-scene in creating dynamic and fascinating portraits of people who think they have no control of their fate.
As much fun as ‘Hotel Artemis’ is as an action thriller, it opens up a lot of interesting ideas of the value of rules and the importance of trust and the gray areas of when we need to break them. Set against the backdrop of a rioting citizenry against corporate greed, it puts to question the nature of rules and how flimsy they can be when compared to the needs of doing what is right.
The fact that we are splitting hairs over the decisions of criminals and their welfare, it’s an ironic morality play that is transpiring in the film on its deeper layer. ‘Hotel Artemis’ does not pretend that the characters in the movie are saints or deserving of our admiration, but we do like them. They are cool and they have very human traits and they have to navigate the dangerous gray areas that we do everyday.
It is such a surprise that ‘Hotel Artemis’ is a lot more than just a fun action film. It’s thrilling and enjoyable, and leaves you with much to think about. I enjoyed this world very much and even as the film ended, I still haven’t checked out from Hotel Artemis. I’d love to know more about this world.