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Hotel Artemis

Two years ago there were two intriguing looking movies about hotels from pretty good writer/directors named Drew. I didn’t get around to seeing either, and they seemed to have unusual premises that were hard to explain in the trailers, so I have always been confused about what they were about and which one was which. When I saw HOTEL ARTEMIS was on Amazon Prime and clicked on it I had my fingers crossed that it was the one with Dave Bautista. And it was.

It takes place over one Wednesday night in L.A., summer of 2028, in what I gotta say are bad times at the Hotel Artemis. There are huge riots in the streets, which a crew of robbers in very stylish skeleton masks are trying to use to cover their getaway, but they get spotted by cops. Sherman (Sterling K. Brown, THE RHYTHM SECTION), his younger brother Lev (Brian Tyree Henry, WIDOWS) and a guy named Buke (Kenneth Choi, TIMECOP 2: THE BERLIN DECISION, STREET KINGS, Judge Ito to Brown’s Christopher Darden in The People vs. O.J. Simpson) manage to get away, but with injuries, so there’s only one place they can go. (See the title of the movie for specifics.)

From the ads I definitely got a JOHN WICK vibe, and the similarity is that this is an exclusive secret hotel for elite criminals, and they have to be members and follow the rules. That’s about it. This is not really an action movie, and it is a sci-fi movie, and though this place is housed inside an aging hotel, its purpose is to be an underworld emergency room. It’s quite an elaborate operation for a hard working nurse (that’s what they call her, because I guess the machines are the doctors?) named Jean (Jodie Foster, ELYSIUM).

Though it’s on earth and it’s only eight years from now, it kind of has that feeling of a movie about blue collar work on a spaceship or space station. It’s only Jean and her orderly Everest (Bautista, WRONG SIDE OF TOWN) running the whole place, letting members in through the security gate, turning on automated robot arms that do surgery, using very handy torches and sprays and injectors to heal wounds with nanotech, very cool stuff we could use in 2020 but never seeming clean or slick. It’s kind of haphazard, like battlefield surgery.

There are cool foldout screens that are basically shower curtains. There are 3D printers to build bones, marrow or tissue. Or, if you can override it, guns. But they all work very slow and sometimes get shut off because the lights keep flashing. Sometimes the generator goes out, and Everest has to go up to the roof to restart it. And then he sees a drone or something getting blown up by the cops, and the riots getting closer. Signs o’ the times.

My least favorite character, but it’s cool that he gets a poster based on an AMERICAN GIGOLO Video Disc!

The patients all have code names and rooms themed after vacation spots. Sherman becomes Waikiki, Lev becomes Honolulu. Acapulco (Charlie Day, PACIFIC RIM) is an obnoxious, entitled rich guy always complaining about shit and expecting to have his ass kissed. Nice (Sofia Boutella, STAR TREK BEYOND, ATOMIC BLONDE, CLIMAX) is a highly skilled assassin who has wounded herself to get closer to a target – we’re not sure who at first. And everybody’s freaking out because the scary guy called The Wolf King, who “runs L.A.” and owns the hotel, is on his way in. His son (Zachary Quinto, HITMAN: AGENT 47) called to demand a room saved for him, which is agains the policy, so Jean said no.

And there’s other stuff going on. Various threads of a crazy late night at a place where crazy shit goes down. They all take their time blowing around in the wind before they naturally weave together in a neat 90 minutes. Shit flies, fans are hit, and there is a pretty good fight (choreographers: Wade Allen [SALT] and Eric Brown [JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2]) as a special bonus. I think this is probly the most verbal English-speaking role I’ve seen for Boutella, whose background as a dancer helps her excel in physical roles like henchwoman Gazelle in KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE and the mummy in THE MUMMY. But I’m glad she still gets a chance to show off her moves.

I dig this movie’s depiction of a world on the brink, people rising up against a private water company, cops wearing storm trooper helmets with built-in red and blue flashers, but that stuff is going on in the background. The heart of the movie is these characters and their relationships: Sherman with his fuckup little brother who holds him back, Sherman and Nice as colleagues, and especially the friendship of Jean and Everest. Foster is playing something I’ve never seen her play before: an old lady. She’s small and hunched over but good at standing her ground with angry violent people. She has a cliche trauma (dead child, shown in beach flashbacks) and result (carrying around a bottle of Crown Royal) but mostly seems like a very authentic portrait of a humble, unglamorous person who throws herself into difficult work she’s very good at with little reward in the capitalistic sense.

And Bautista has that quality we love in Bautista: the giant with the rough edge and the sweet heart. He dryly comments when he has a bad feeling about Jean’s decisions, which is often, at least on this particular shift. But he’s fiercely loyal to her, very professionally calls her “Nurse” and does whatever she tells him. He deliberately doesn’t know things about her life before Hotel Artemis, but when she’s too afraid to go outside the building he says, “What about that anxiety tape I gave you?” So they seem to have a connection that goes beyond just co-workers.

He proudly calls himself “a medical professional,” but he’s mostly a security guard who has to choke, punch and threaten some guys, and he gets exhausted with all this running around. I guess there are about five or six roles I could say this about, but it’s one of his best.

The whole time I watched this I was thinking it was by the guy that did CABIN IN THE WOODS, but that’s the other Drew. This is Drew Pearce, the Drew that wrote IRON MAN THREE for Shane Black and has a story credit on MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION. And he wrote HOBBS & SHAW, I didn’t remember that. This directorial debut is the most unusual of his filmography, so I hope he gets more chances to do his own projects. He did a good job with the actors and it’s a nice looking movie too. No wonder – the cinematographer is Chung-hoon Chung, who did OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE and IT.

I like these characters and this world and that it feels more like a one-crazy-night story than the-night-that-changed-all-their-lives. I mean, in some cases I’m sure it did, but it’s not about them having to climb up a building and defuse a nuclear bomb or anything like that.

I’m sure opinions vary but I think from what I heard this was supposed to be the lesser of the 2018 hotel duology. If so that’s great news because I really liked this one.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2020 at 1:42 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

18 Responses to “Hotel Artemis”

  1. Saw this a few months back. Yeah this was interesting and i like Foster and Bautista here.

    Hate Charlie Day though. I’ve never found him funny. Not even in It’s Always Sunny.

  2. I’m definitely camp Royale, possibly because I like the lead actors there more, but I enjoyed this one pretty well too. Having said that, while I don’t have a special affinity for Bautista like Vern does, I always dig him, and I dig him here too. Maybe I should have a special affinity for him.

    Looking forward to your review of the other one, Vern. Also, thanks for turning me on to The Suspense Is Killing Us podcast last year, Vern. They’re the best.

  3. I liked it too. Very charming and entertaining movie, that gave me a “90s DTV movie, that tries really hard to become an instant cult classic” vibe in the best possible way. But man, was it distracting to have Jodie Foster as an old lady. Nothing against her performance, but I was expecting a flashback or something, that would explain why they would put someone in old age make up, instead of casting a real, old lady. Seems like “You can’t play a member of a group who you don’t belong to” doesn’t count for old people.

  4. I saw this in the theater, at the height of Moviepass. i could see a movie everyday if I wanted, and did so work/errands/etc permitting.

    This was a movie i probably would have skipped in the theater unless friends wanted to go, but thanks to that cool while it lasted deal, this was an unexpected almost gem.

  5. The Winchester

    May 13th, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    It’s funny you bring up Bad Times at El Royale because that preview played before I saw this (the one week it played in theaters) and I remember thinking (hoping) that Artemis would be more akin to that. Then realizing it wasn’t I was disappointed.

    Yeah, I need to give this one another shot. It wasn’t quite what I thought it was gonna be and instead of realizing what it is and I dictated my opinion based on what it wasn’t.

    The cast is great, it looks good, great score. Everything about it is fine. Just not the right mindset.

    Oh, and Jenny Slate is in it and shes always welcome in my book! (Although I was hoping for more of a payoff for her story then what happened)

  6. I really liked this one for some reason. It just clicked with me and I’ve watched it two or three times now. A good rainy Sunday afternoon movie, I think.

  7. I remember being pretty disappointed in this one. The trailer made it out to have the thrust of the story being these various criminals holed up in an underworld hospital, under John Carpenter siege by a crime lord some of them had stolen from. Simple, clean, interesting. Instead, it was one of those wannabe Tarantino crime movies with endless patter and largely no plot to speak of. The trailer guys had a better pitch than the actual director!

  8. Oh man, you’re right, The Winchester!

    The Jenny Slate dead end completely slipped my mind. That was easily the worst part of this movie for me. Not her. She was welcome. It was her subplot that sucked. I wouldn’t say it didn’t have an end, exactly, although its end was awfully weak. It was more that it didn’t really have a middle. Total boondoggle of a subplot.

    Unless I missed something. Please tell me if I did!

  9. Glad you got around to this one, Vern! I agree with CJ, this has a kind of ‘they don’t make ’em like this anymore’ vibe to it, mostly the result of its relatively small-scale, largely character-driven take on a genre movie. At some point it seems like genre movies, or at least genre movies that could possibly play in the theater, gave up on the idea that just a simple scenario populated with interesting characters would be enough to keep audiences entertained. Everything became hyper-focused on high-concept, frantic plotting. Nice to have a reprieve from that here, especially with Jodi Foster putting so much effort into her role. Seems destined to be one of those movies that people gradually come around on over the years.

  10. Thanks for reminding me that this was out there, Vern. I quite enjoyed it. And you’re absolutely right about Foster-I got a vibe off her that I’ve NEVER gotten before, and it was wonderful. Those shock troops with shields were right out of ESCAPE FROM L.A. Which is kinda funny.

  11. Finally got around to this one, and I’m glad I did. I saw BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE back then and it seemed schematic and as though the actors were over-reaching, although Cynthia Erivo was great. HOTEL ARTEMIS is far from perfect and it surely benefits a lot from a dream cast, but the overall vibe, not just Foster, took me with it much more. There are some big tonal shifts that reminded me of the best Korean movies, but sadly it doesn’t have the length to really develop in that way. If this was a Korean movie it would definitely be 40 minutes longer and somehow the better for all the slow character moments. As it stands, it’s kinda like a pilot for a show I could really get into.

  12. Yeah this one still holds up IMO. The sci-fi-ness of the world is perfectly pitched to a “20 minutes into the future” kind of vibe without being obnoxious about it. I think it’s definitely the better of the two hotel-themed genre pictures of that year. I really *wanted* to like EL ROYALE, but it somehow felt like it was fighting me enjoying it the whole time. It was trying to be really clever but I think it needed a main character who didn’t have some kind of mysterious backstory twist lurking in the wings. I guess the singer lady was that, but she doesn’t seem like a *main* character for quite a while as I recall.

    That’s the contrast between the two that I think breaks in favor of this one- there are characters with secrets and hidden backstories and stuff, but Jodie Foster, Bautista, and Sterling Brown’s characters are pretty much who they say they are. We can get attached and invested in them a lot more easily because the rug isn’t going to be pulled out from under us about their motivations or character.

    Anyway, if you’re only going to watch one hotel-based genre picture from 2018, it might as well be ARTEMIS.

  13. I really wanted to like this but it ended up being a huge disappointment for me.
    It looks great, most of the actors are great (given the material they’ve got), and the premise is fun if a bit gimmicky. But the script is a meandering mish mash of cliches, film-school posturing and, as someone mentioned above, Tarantinisms but without any of the charm. Shame, since I thought the script for Iron Man 3 is pretty great.

  14. I’m in Camp Disappointed on this one as well. I think a big part of that was the wrong expectations. I had no idea it had a sci-fi element. I thought it was straight up action. I thought it was a siege movie. I was expecting Die Hard at the John Wick Hotel of Assassins and couldn’t pivot from that to enjoy it for what it was. Maybe I’d like it more if I saw it again knowing what it is

    I absolutely loved EL ROYALE, though.

  15. I think I’m probably Team Artemis. It’s less than the sum of its parts, but I like all the parts a lot. I enjoyed ROYALE as well but overall it’s a little too clever for its own good. It’s so clever I barely remember what the premise ended up being after all the twists were out of the way. I agree with Kurgan that a story can get so carried away with the secrets and reveals and switchbacks that the bedrock reality of the story crumbles, leaving little to latch onto. I feel this concept is best exemplified by the SAW sequels, which are all so excited to pull the rug out from under viewers that there’s no way a mere mortal can keep straight what actually happened.

  16. Like I said above, I really appreciated this one for being so resolutely low-concept and character-driven. Since the 90s ushered in the era of the mindfuck, genre movies have leaned more and more heavily on high-concept cleverness, which usually translates into frantic, flop-sweating over-plotting, since few screenwriters are actually clever enough to write something both elegant and surprising. There have been a few high points of that sort, but far more movies which just collapse into busy drivel, hiding their emptiness behind a Rube Goldberg machine of meaningless moving parts. By contrast, HOTEL ARTEMIS seems almost shocking in its confident smallness. It’s a good reminder that movies used to be much less plot-driven; it wasn’t that long ago that most genre movies were more like THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT or CHARLEY VARRICK: not completely plotless, but obviously more of a loose framework to hang out with some interesting characters and watch them bounce off each other than a rigidly structured scenario. Character-driven movies still exist, but they’ve been pushed to the arthouse fringes more and more, so seeing one this disreputable is like suddenly bumping into an old friend you haven’t seen in years.

  17. Mr. S: That’s why I love SHIN GODZILLA so much. There is spectacle but it is primarily a small character-driven drama/satire about dealing with a problem and the system. Followed here by a big American one that had tons more spectacle but it wasn’t nearly as good spectacle and the characters were terrible. Still amazing that a movie that has, on it’s surface, so little going on and goes about it’s story in the lamest way possible, on paper, is far more exciting and investing than the huge spectacle movie that has a gigantic set piece every ten to twenty minutes.

  18. geoffreyjar — I wouldn’t call SHIN GODZILLA character-driven, exactly, more like a giant monster procedural. But it’s definitely a great example of a modern genre movie which is less driven by plot and concept than we’ve become used to.

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