Hotel Artemis (Drew Pearce, 2018) 2 out of 4 stars.
After the 2014 underground hit John Wick established the interesting idea of a fortified sanctuary for criminals in the form of the Continental Hotel, it was only a matter of time until this clever concept inspired other filmmakers to take it even further. This year we see the first bona fide copycat of the Continental zeitgeist in the form of Drew Pearce’s Hotel Artemis.
Jodie Foster is the manager and 24/7 nurse of the infamous Hotel Artemis. For 28 years, the Artemis has been a secret haven for high- and low-end criminals who are in desperate need of bodily patchwork or a nice place to lie low. The nurse is willing to oblige her guests’ needs as long as the ironclad rules of the hotel are followed to the letter. As the new tenants start to collide with the old, the nurse quickly realizes her dedication to the rules of the Artemis is about to be put to the test.
Set in a fiery and water-stricken dystopian Los Angeles, Hotel Artemis is a visually stimulating hodgepodge of first-draft world-building and character beats. Pearce keeps the story moving at a consistent whirlwind pace to a fault. Just as Foster is about to lay down the all-important rules of the Artemis—the core foundation that will start to flesh out the film’s reality—a quick and bloody action sequence comes barreling in when you’re least expecting and ruins any sense of context. It’s confusing how a nearly two-hour movie manages to leave the “hotel for criminals” concept more untouched than the shorter Continental Hotel sequences in the John Wick films.
The film is lucky to have such a star-studded cast; otherwise, the intense action and flashy visual style would be useless. Cast members like Sterling K. Brown, Sophia Boutella, and Charlie Day run with their unscrupulous characters as far as Pearce’s uneven script allows. The mystery of their characters is on full display and the actors wisely apply it to each of their respective strengths as performers, but when the time comes to learn why these people chose this life of theft and murder, the juicy tidbits are quite dry.
Drew Pearce drops Hotel Artemis’ clever concept on the ground running without checking to see if the film is strong enough to stand on its own first. The violent action is gruesome and occasionally entertaining, but it’s never as memorable as the action in John Wick or as fun and outlandish as in Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake of Evil Dead. If there’s one reason to see Hotel Artemis, it’s Jodie Foster as the nurse. She is the unmistakable soul of the film and the only chance Drew Pearce has to create a second installment.