FILM REVIEW – HOTEL ARTEMIS. With Jodie Foster, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto. Written by and directed by Drew Pearce. Rated R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references, and brief drug use. 93 minutes.
Like the recent “Upgrade,” HOTEL ARTEMIS is a real curio of a movie, combining a violent action film with a touch of science fiction. Writer Drew Pearce, making his debut as a feature director, pulls it all together with a strong cast, and a tight plot.
It’s 2028 as riots break out in Los Angeles over the privatization of the water supply. Jodie Foster, looking much older than her 55 years, is cast as “The Nurse,” who operates the titular hotel which has been converted into a hospital for the underworld. One almost expects Keanu Reeves’ John Wick to be showing up here, but instead, it’s a group of anonymous people identified only by the suites they are staying in.
Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) has shown up with his severely wounded brother (Brian Tyree Henry) after a botched robbery. Nice (Sofia Boutella) is recovering from a bullet wound that we learn she inflicted on herself for reasons that will soon become clear. Acapulco (Charlie Day) is an obnoxious arms dealer trying to get out of there. The Wolf (Jeff Goldblum) – booked into the Niagara suite – is the crime kingpin of Los Angeles, and his son (Zachary Quinto) is threatening to spin out of control. The Nurse treats them, as well as a police officer (Jenny Slate) with whom she shares some history, with the help of Everest (Dave Bautista), her burly and loyal orderly who considers himself a healthcare professional.
For a taut 93 minutes, set almost entirely at the hotel/hospital, the characters interact in sometimes surprising ways. Holding it all together is Foster’s Nurse, who drinks and listens to classic rock to ease the pain of her past, but who employs all sorts of high tech medicine to treat people who have paid to become members of this exclusive private hospital. Highly competent and insistent that the facility’s rules be followed, she’s not above bending them herself. The place is not only her home and workplace, it is – for reasons that slowly emerge – her refuge.
Pearce has gathered a top-notch cast, which is what the film requires since it is much more character-driven than about its plot. We get some backstory for several of the characters – for example, Waikiki has felt his life limited because he’s had to protect his brother – but it primarily serves to provide motivation, not to get the story to a particular point. Fortunately, the film has style to spare, with the action taking place in the seedy but once luxurious hotel.
“Hotel Artemis” is not going to blow “Ocean’s 8” out of the water this weekend, but it may well be the movie that – in the long run – gets new fans as well as second viewings, long after the summer’s tentpoles are forgotten.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.