Director: Drew Pearce
Cast: Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Jeff Goldblum, Sterling K. Brown, Charlie Day, Brian Tyree Henry
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“Things are going to hell in a hand basket full of blood and shit.” That’s The Nurse (Foster) in Hotel Artemis, the sci-fi action thriller from Iron Man Three writer Drew Pearce. The titular establishment is a safe haven for criminals, run by The Nurse, a tough force to be reckoned with, and Everest (Dave Bautista), an orderly who delivers room service on a tray of muscles and a side order of a violence. The hotel is more of a safe haven than ever when we check in, as the dystopian society outside has descended into riots. John Wick meets The Purge? It’s a promising starting point for this small-scale genre piece, although it doesn’t extend its stay much beyond that.
The riots are due to water shortages in California, after privatisation and capitalism have stretched social inequality to beyond breaking point. But that spells opportunity for Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry), two brothers who steal $17m worth of diamonds amid the chaos, and seek refuge the only place they can. But the hotel is already booked up, with other guests including a dangerous assassin, Nice (Sofia Boutella), and a self-centred arms dealer, Acapulco (Charlie Day). And then there’s the little matter of the Wolf King of LA turning up with his petulant, hostile son – played, respectively, by Jeff Goldblum and Zachary Quinto.
It’s a cast to die for – literally, in the case of several characters – and Hotel Artemis’ strength lies in giving them each a chance to enjoy playing such a rambunctious gaggle of misfits. Day is wonderfully despicable, Boutella gets a rare chance to show off her skills, Quinto sinks his teeth into being cast as a villain, while Brown and Henry are charismatic and sincere. Between them all are Goldblum and Bautista, one strutting and one stalking through the hotel corridors, but both in need of a bit more to do. Foster, though, is undoubtedly the MVP, as she disappears into the downbeat role of The Nurse, whose backstory can’t be hidden beneath her professional surface, and service, for much longer. Her journey, as a mourner, as an agoraphobe, as a medical expert determined to do her duty, is the heart of Pearce’s script.
It’s a shame, then, the screenplay doesn’t surround her with much else. While its gallery of rogues is reliably colourful, Hotel Artemis doesn’t delve into the intriguing world that’s produced them, and once our oddballs are thrown together, the ensuing events feel meandering and haphazard, with little logic or character motivation behind them. Foster’s turn, meanwhile, risks being undermined by occasionally intrusive flashbacks that don’t always propel the narrative in the way they intend. The result is a likeable showcase for Pearce’s imagination, as he makes his directorial debut, but an underwhelming stay in a hotel that you wish had a bit more to it than its stylishly upholstered surface.
Hotel Artemis is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription – with a 7-day free trial.
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