UK Release Date: 20th July 2018
Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Drew Pearce
Writer: Drew Pearce
Starring: Jodie Foster, Sterling K Brown, Dave Bautista, Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day, Brian Tyree Henry, Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto, Jenny Slate
Synopsis: A pair of injured bank robbers check themselves into a specialist hospital for criminals, full of colourful bad guys, in the midst of violent riots on the streets of Los Angeles.
When Jodie Foster miserably intones at the midpoint of Hotel Artemis that “things are going to hell in a handbasket full of blood and shit”, you’d be forgiven for thinking that she’s experiencing a movie that’s considerably more exciting than the one unfolding on screen. Trailers for this film suggested that writer-director Drew Pearce, perhaps best known for co-writing Iron Man 3, had taken the notion of John Wick‘s incredibly formalised criminal underworld and spun it into an equally original concept – a hotel for bad guys, with a very exclusive membership.
Among that exclusive membership is Sterling K Brown‘s bank robber, who checks in to the eponymous institution along with his brother (Brian Tyree Henry) when a heist goes wrong amid riots on the streets of LA. The nurse in charge (Foster) allows him in to the building, where the guests are not allowed to kill each other or insult the staff and everyone is anonymised by the geographical name of their room. There’s tension brewing between assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella) and arms dealer Acapulco (Charlie Day), while the place gets even busier when it emerges that local crime kingpin The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) is en route, with his psychotic son (Zachary Quinto) in tow.
There are a tonne of fun ideas in Hotel Artemis, but they’re all pushed to one side in favour of a rather generic action tale that doesn’t find very much room for action. Most of the best set pieces are in the trailer and there’s an awful lot of time devoted to people standing in rooms trading dialogue that isn’t particularly interesting. At a relatively brisk 90 minutes, it’s a rare example of a movie that feels as if it’s in a hurry to get people in and out of the cinema without devoting any time to fleshing out its intriguing underworld or the colourful characters within it. It’s the definition of style over substance.
That’s not to say that the performances aren’t enjoyable. Foster is clearly having a great time with a role that’s definitely outside of her comfort zone, even though she’s served an under-cooked emotional arc. The same lack of depth is handed to Sterling K Brown, who nominally gives the story its emotional impetus, but has very little to do beyond introducing the audience into the hotel. The only true star in Hotel Artemis is Dave Bautista as the mammoth hospital orderly Everest, who is as handy with a deadpan one-liner as he is when fists and bullets start flying. It’s another comedic standout role for the former wrestler, who is quickly becoming a terrific big screen star.
This is, however, an incredibly disappointing movie. It’s always sad to see an idea as good as this go begging and Pearce clearly has all of the pieces he needs to complete the jigsaw puzzle, but bungles the execution so badly that all of the corner pieces are in the middle and half of the edges have gone missing. Hotel Artemis could have been a solid slice of underworld madness in the mould of John Wick, but instead it feels like a direct-to-DVD knock-off that anyone but the most patient of viewers would turn off after five minutes.
Pop or Poop?
Despite a very interesting trailer and an arsenal of great names in front of the camera, Hotel Artemis wastes all of its potential and delivers something that will have been entirely forgotten before the year is out. When you have Jeff Goldblum as a sandal-wearing crime lord, it shouldn’t be possible to go quite this wrong.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.