Easily one of the most overlooked and commercially underwhelming films of 2018, ‘Hotel Artemis’ is one of those rare releases that feels very unsuited to the genre its actually a part of, as whilst this enclosed story set within the walls of an illegal hospital is certainly interesting, ‘Hotel Artemis’ also bizarrely serves as a science fiction flick. Boasting plenty of futuristic technology alongside its snappy dialogue, charismatic performances and gorgeously designed central location, its just a shame that this neo-noir thriller doesn’t always know what to do with the above.
Plot Summary: In the riot-torn, near future of Los Angeles, 2028. Disgruntled thieves and criminals make their way to ‘Hotel Artemis,’ a secret members-only hospital operated by ‘The Nurse,’ a no-nonsense doctor who tends to their injuries under the condition that anyone who enters the hotel sticks to the set rules. But after ‘The Nurse’ receives word the notorious crime lord: ‘The Wolf King’ is in bound with a gunshot wound, ‘The Nurse’ is forced to break her own rules as the hotel is thrown into violent chaos…
Written and directed by Drew Pearce, ‘Hotel Artemis’ is actually Pearce’s directorial debut, as before this film Pearce had exclusively worked as a screenwriter, writing blockbusters such as: ‘Iron Man 3’ and ‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’ as well as the ‘Fast and Furious’ spin-off: ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ later down the line. This might explain why ‘Hotel Artemis’ is as compellingly written as it is, as in spite of its quick-pacing and very limited number of locations, the film manages to squeeze a fair amount into its extremely tight runtime, exploring some of the world outside of the hotel in addition to developing many of the hotel’s criminal inhabitants, all the while, the film remains tense as a result of the interactions between the characters and the impending arrive of: ‘The Wolf King.’
Jodie Foster leads the cast as ‘The Nurse,’ her first acting role since the sci-fi film: ‘Elysium’ in 2013. And her all too rare screen presence is a pleasure to see again, as she gives a convincingly mournful performance, portraying ‘The Nurse’ as an elderly women refined to the sanctuary of her work following the tragic death of her son. Then there are also the criminals, assassins and thieves (and hotel security) portrayed by Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day, Zachary Quinto and Jeff Goldblum, who are all enjoyable to watch as the various scum of the futuristic Los Angles, and all receive a fair amount of development although many characters don’t receive a payoff.
The film’s greatest strength is without a doubt its setting, as the penthouse floor of: ‘The Artemis’ is rich with atmosphere as the hotel’s set-design and set-dressing is reminiscent of the art deco style of hotels of the 1930s, almost giving the impression its a building from day’s past. From the velvet cushions to the green slightly teared wallpaper, ‘Hotel Artemis’ is a very memorable location, its just unfortunate the film attempts to weave in sci-fi wires and screens etc. The cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung also greatly adds to the film’s visuals, as the film keeps its shots and colourful lighting as diverse as possible and avoids utilising too much hand-held camerawork.
Cliff Martinez’s original score is another superb element of the film, as the soundtrack features plenty of noteworthy tracks like ‘It Smells Like Somebody Died in Here,’ ‘Hands Off the Gooch,’ ‘I Only Kill Important People’ and ‘Don’t Cross My Line,’ all of which elevate both the tension and style of the film. ‘Hotel Artemis’ also integrates a few songs from the 1970s such as: ‘California Dreamin’ and ‘Helpless,’ which whilst catchy, further adds to the idea of the film seeming out-of-place as a science fiction flick, but then I suppose without the link to that genre we wouldn’t have the rest of this fantastically computerised score.
As mentioned many times before, the biggest flaw of: ‘Hotel Artemis’ for me is its near future setting, as due to many of the film’s characters feeling like modern-day criminals in their actions and personalities, it soon becomes clear that with just a few small alterations the entire narrative could really be switched to fit within a modern time-period, making the sci-fi aspects ultimately pointless. However, with the idea of a hotel for criminals already being explored with the ‘Continental Hotel’ in the ‘John Wick’ series, its possible that these characteristics were introduced as a way of avoiding too many similarities with that franchise.
All in all, whilst some characters may not quite get the resolution they deserve and a number of concepts do feel undercooked, ‘Hotel Artemis’ is still a tense and engaging story with many exciting moments of action in-between. Although I personally would only recommend the film to viewers who specifically enjoy intense sci-fi-thrillers, it is a pity that ‘Hotel Artemis’ mostly received lukewarm reviews and was an utter box-office failure, because there is clearly a level of effort put into the film, and I do feel its worth a watch should it seem appealing. Final Rating: low 7/10.