Some people are going to label this a science fiction film, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Yes, it takes place in the future, but only 10 years from now. It’s set in Los Angeles, during a time of civil unrest, shortly after a large conglomerate has turned off the local public water supply, and signs and chants in the mob-filled streets are all versions of “We want water!”
Unfortunately, that sort of scenario feels more contemporary and true than emanating from the realms of science fiction. But there’s something else going on here that keeps the film hovering above absolute reality.
Like the “John Wick” thrillers that came before it — and there are going to be comparisons to them — there’s a kind of indescribable weirdness in this film’s world, something that’s just a little off kilter, but you can’t put your finger on it.
Somewhere in downtown L.A. stands the old-style title building, with its neon sign lit up on top. It’s a place that’s seen by many, but knowledge of what occurs inside is known by very few. First off, it’s not just a hotel, it’s also a hospital. And only members are allowed through its doors. And every member is, if not an outright criminal, someone of nefarious character.
For instance, right now, the guests include bank robber Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown), arms dealer Acapulco (Charlie Day) and international assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella). If you’re wondering about those odd names, Hotel Artemis is a place where people’s names aren’t spoken. Anyone there is referred to by the name — and décor — of their room. So, yes, there are palms trees painted on the walls of the bank robber’s room.
That would already make for a pretty good foundation for a movie, with everyone staying in rooms with multiple locks on their doors, knowing full well that everyone else there is at best shady and at worst extremely dangerous. A constant air of mystery and uncertainty is aided and abetted by a dark and wry sense of humor. For instance, the visiting hours are “NEVER” and one of the guests who’s on the lam mentions that he’s “going south, to the wall.”
But none of that actually is the foundation for it. “Hotel Artemis” is about the lonely, frightened woman who runs the place. She’s called Nurse (Jodie Foster, looking exhausted and much older than she is in real life). She’s totally old school, using a dial phone and listening to vinyl records (and a big fan of The Mamas & the Papas). She’s earned her nickname because she’s very good at dealing with the problems encountered by lots of her clientele. You know, medical issues such as gunshot wounds.
Like everyone staying there, whether bleeding or just hiding out, Nurse has deep secrets. Hers is one that she’s tried to keep buried in her past and has resulted in an ongoing case of anxiety, forcing her to stay inside the Artemis, emotionally unable to leave the building. Providing any assistance for her, both inside and outside the hotel is Everest (Dave Bautista), her bouncer, right-hand man, confidante, and friend, who likely earned the nickname due to his immense size and muscularity.
Nurse is fast-talking, business-like, and tough when it comes to the hotel’s strict rules, but she withers when she learns that a special guest is on the way, one Mr. Franklin, AKA The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), the man who owns the place, has the reputation of being someone you do not want to cross, and is badly in need of emergency medical help.
As the script continues to peel back more and more layers of secrets, riot-related drones and helicopters and explosions keep filling the skies. But never mind that the street clashes are getting closer to the Artemis; you’ll forget all about that once Nice, clad in the slinkiest red dress imaginable, gets into some cool and deadly hand-to-hand combat in the corridors. The whole film takes place in one 24-hour period. Man, it’s a bad Wednesday in L.A.!
— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written and directed by Drew Pearce
With Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Jeff Goldblum, Charlie Day