- Review by Dara McWade
Hotel Artemis has all the makings of something great, but falls just short of the mark.
Hotel Artemis, the debut feature from longtime Hollywood scribe Drew Pearce is an odd, genre-hopping beast. A noir-styled speculative sci-fi,dystopia-undersiege-crime thriller (say that three times fast), Hotel Artemis has a lot to set-up. But, set-up it does with aplomb. Characters appear with mystery and style and the world, a future, class-divided Los Angeles beset by large-scale riots, is established in an exciting opening heist. It's a dangerous world, especially for criminals. But, thankfully for them, there's a place that they can escape to lick their wounds: the Hotel Artemis. Based in one of those old faux-glamorous, run-down hotels synonymous with the city, the Hotel doubles as a top secret hospital for criminals. This hospital is run by who else but Jodie Foster playing a bad-ass old lady, and her scene-stealing orderly Everest, played by the scene-stealing Dave Bautista. Over the course of the night, Jodie Foster's Nurse finds herself inundated by a patient list filled with Hollywood’s finest with an ever-worsening riot outside her doors.
The extended call sheet, which also includes This Is Us’s Sterling K. Brown and Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry as bank-robbing brothers, Always Sunny’s Charlie Day as an entitled billionaire, Sofia Boutella in full femme fatale mode and the legendary Jeff Goldblum in a gangster role - well, it speaks for itself. All these characters have their own back-stories and hidden motivations, all adding to this powder-keg that’s waiting to explode.
Set-up, however, isn't everything. And the powder-keg never quite seems to go off.
Many have criticised the bloated blockbusters that tend to appear at this time of year - films that seem to stretch on and on until they finally, mercifully end at two and a half to three hours. To many, Hotel Artemis may seem a gift - finally, a film that stands at an hour forty.
For Hotel Artemis however, that gift is a curse - many of the interesting ideas and relationships the film brings up just don’t have the time to spark an explosion of plot. The second half feels shaved to it’s bones - removing not just the fat, but the muscle too. There’s too many interesting characters and threads for the film to end the way it does, with one dull, foreseeable resolution happening one after another. It’s too clean.
Films like this - big, pulpy hulks of film, made for cult consumption, need to be messy. John Wicks extraneous violence, The Big Lebowski’s meandering confusion of a plot, Donnie Darko’s abjectly mysterious ending - a cult film needs to feel like it’s barely holding together. Hotel Artemis, unlike the hospital it depicts, is not that at all - it’s too clean to be interesting. Despite the excitement the build up brings - at one point, your trusted reviewer giggled at a particularly juicy complication - the pay-off feels stunted.
It’s rare you want a film to be more messy - but damned if I didn’t want Hotel Artemis to go off the rails and make a stupid plot diversion, instead of going exactly where you thought it would go. I left the film wanting another 20 minutes and a complication. Is that so much to ask? Hotel Artemis walks right up to the line of legendary cult status - but just can’t cross it.