Hotel Artemis

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 7, 2018

'Hotel Artemis'
'Hotel Artemis'  

Hotel Artemis, the location, is a 12-story building in the middle of downtown Los Angeles with a giant neon sign on its roof that bears its namesake. The lobby's front door is locked, and inside there is nothing but dust and covered-up furniture where guests would normally be greeted. There is, however, a penthouse suite dedicated strictly to serving LA's criminals with high-quality hospital care. Waste no time pondering on the logic of how this particular venue escapes building codes, health inspections and anything else that would reveal its true nature as it stands tall in a city of four million people, as that would defeat much of the pulpy pleasures that "Hotel Artemis," the film, has to offer.

Set in Los Angeles 2028 against the backdrop of a violent riot that feels all too realistic in today's tense times, "Hotel Artemis" is an extremely silly film that's filled with smart ideas never quite executed to the thought-provoking potential they should be. It's a film about many things: It's about societal unrest; crime and corruption; loyalty and rules; the acts of rich, white, male assholes in power; and the acts of the sons of rich, white, male assholes in power. It's designed as a pre-apocalyptic civil horror, much in the realm of "The Purge" series, where society's stresses take the form of animalistic violence.

These riots exist mainly as a thematic foil to the happenings inside the Hotel Artemis (they're introduced via a clever montage set to "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & The Papas, then settle into the background via sound design and news footage). Inside the titular structure, Nurse (a campy Jodie Foster) runs the hotel in an alcoholic, anxious haze that is still remarkably level-headed. She lives by her building's rules (no killing or fighting, no bombs, no guests, etc.) and as long as her members follow these guidelines to a T, the Hotel Artemis runs peacefully.

Unfortunately, things take a turn when, in the midst of the riots, a bank robber (Sterling K. Brown) enters with his injured accomplice (Brian Tyree Henry). The pair has stolen an item they shouldn't have, belonging to LA's mob boss, The Wolf (Jeff Goldblum). Adding to this, another check-in at the hotel (Sofia Boutella) is there with violent motives of her own regarding The Wolf. There's also a patient played by Charlie Day, but he's just there to be one of the rich, white, male assholes I was talking about before. Between petty squabbles and escalating tension, everything comes to a head in the movie's latter half, where the hotel becomes more and more like the riots just outside.

The plot isn't half-baked here, but it's a tad overcooked. The stylish premise teeters between playful pulpiness and predictable pedestrianism, but there are still a handful of truly strong moments (a hallway fight scene involving Sofia Boutella is a noted highlight of the film's action-packed climax). At its core, "Hotel Artemis" is a mixed bag that feels like an exploitative B-movie, a kooky character ensemble piece and a college essay on ethics all at once.

This is the directorial debut of "Iron Man 3" screenwriter Drew Pearce, and its visual style isn't bad, but it is trite. The film as a whole is fun and frequently fresh, but the all-encompassing commonplace nature of how its bold premise is communicated is hard to shake. The story is strong, yet the tale is told with hiccups that hinder this brashness. Its tongue-in-cheek nature is enjoyable, but it eventually bites its own tongue off with over-eagerness towards becoming something more than it should be, leaving us with a more muted film. However, at under 90 minutes, the movie certainly doesn't overstay its welcome. Mileage will vary, but if you forgive the flaws, "Hotel Artemis" is worth the stay.