A Lost Weekend at 'Hotel Artemis' | Episode 96.5

Posted June 11, 2018

-review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer

If every summer needs its Atomic Blonde — that stylish, violent, well-cast, over-stimulated, completely ludicrous and inessential action film — well, welcome to Hotel Artemis. Written and directed by Iron Man 3 co-scribe Drew Pearce, it’s a beautifully simple movie to pitch: in a dystopic Los Angeles of the near future, a half-dozen criminals spend a tense night in an underworld hospital.

We check into the "hotel" with a pair of bank-robbing brothers, Waikiki and Honolulu, played by Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry, respectively. They’ve taken on those pseudonyms based on their room assignments at the Artemis, as is the building’s custom. Tyree Henry’s character has been critically wounded in the robbery that opens the film, and the brothers hightail it to the Artemis amid a growing riot outside. On that front, desperate and protesting Angelinos are battling private police forces for access to water. And in movie rules, a cabal of thieves, arms dealers and assassins is far less scary than this civil unrest. Because the hospital actually has rules, namely, there’s no fighting in the Artemis, and you must be a member to enter. (The assassins’ asylum from the middle act of John Wick is a pretty clear reference point here.)

The arbiter of these rules and the woman stitching everyone up goes simply by “The Nurse” (Jodie Foster). She’s a whiskey-swilling, laser-scalpel-wielding surgeon, who the film is begging me to describe as "a tough cookie." And so I will do that now. When the tough cookie act doesn’t keep the violent crooks in line, her orderly Everest (Dave Bautista) does.

The film’s powderkeg narrative works well, especially when you have an ensemble comprising such different temperaments. Mix in the fact that every guest has some sort of injury for which they seem to need both painkillers and stimulants, and each interaction becomes a test. Charlie Day plays a pissy, boorish arms dealer, who clashes well with Sofia Boutella continuing to get mileage out of her menacing, vixen assassin schtick (that you might remember from such films as, hey, Atomic Blonde). And Bautista makes for a lovable lunk, trying his best at being a diplomat. Everest seems carved from tattooed marble to commit violent acts but keeps insisting he’s a healthcare professional. Still, he “will unheal the shit out of” Artemis guests who act up.

And Sterling K. Brown plays well off everyone. Hotel Artemis marks a really well-deserved venue for Brown to see if the sentiment and charisma that made him a star on American Crime Story and This Is Us can helm a movie. Well, he can, even without much help from the script. While Waikiki is given only vague motivations that fall in the category of just wanting to be his own man, Brown is in here doing what movie stars do — making pretty stock lines feel like the product of a distinct personality. “I’m trying really hard to keep myself to myself,” Brown’s character warns Charlie Day’s with genuine softness and the tangible feeling that he’s mentally blocking out 50 different ways to kill him. Brown admirably savors what little dialogue does build out his character, taking the patter seriously the way only a few good actors would when thrust into an otherwise silly genre movie. It’s Viggo Mortensen-esque.

But let’s talk about the writing writ large. It’s not surprising Drew Pearce’s biggest credit to date came from collaborating with Shane Black (on Iron Man 3). The writing in his directorial debut is quippy and very knowing, but it also suffers from the perennial Shane Black problem of forced sentiment. Why, after two decades of running the hotel, does The Nurse turn up a facedown photo of her son on this particular night? Why does she seem so ripe for an emotional crisis? In a story that’s pleasure will be in its incidental perfect storm, why would a sleek, 90-minute movie be drawn toward anything resembling origin stories? If Pearce wants to insist on doing more in his script, why not consider what it means for societal outcasts to have members-only access to healthcare while corporations are denying Americans public utilities? There’s something for the hired guns to chat about around the Artemis coffee bar while deciding whether or not to impale each other.

It’s also a script that uses self-awareness like an escape hatch. A few critics in my theater snorted out loud when Zachary Quinto’s character addresses his gangster father with “I know I’m the youngest, but...” and continues describing his life’s ambition, only for his father to respond that it’s "stupid shit" like this confession that’s held him back. It’s a classic guilty plea for knowing exposition-as-dialogue is a problem but blatantly writing it anyway, and then slapping yourself on the wrist for doing so.

Hotel Artemis is an easy movie to slot into the bad-good ranks and a disappointing one for not clearing the quite low good-good bar of the self-contained original screenplay with an exciting, likable cast. A certain sect of filmgoer (the hosts of this show!) spends a lot of time these days asking for more movies like Hotel Artemis to get made. It’s just that Artemis resembles that person’s hazy idea for a movie they’d like go see, not the one that gets them into the theater.


All The Movies We've Reviewed

101 Dalmatians
10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Things I Hate About You
127 Hours
22 Jump Street
47 Meters Down
Across The Universe
A Dangerous Method
A Few Good Men
Air Force One
A League of Their Own
Alien 3
Alien: Covenant
Alien: Resurrection
American Animals
American Hustle
American Made
American Psycho
American Splendor
A Simple Plan
A Single Man
A Star Is Born
Atomic Blonde
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
AVP: Alien Vs. Predator
Baby Driver
Baby Mama
Bad Company
Bad Lieutenant
Bad Moms
Bad Santa
Basic Instinct
Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Beasts of No Nation
Beauty And The Beast
Before Sunrise
Behind Enemy Lines
Black Hawk Down
Black Mass
Black Panther
Blade Runner 2049
Bleed For This
Body Heat
Boogie Nights
Bridge of Spies
Bull Durham
Call Me By Your Name
Captain Fantastic
Catch Me If You Can
Chariots Of Fire
Chasing Amy
Child's Play
Christmas Vacation
Cinderella Man
Con Air
Cool Runnings
Crazy Rich Asians
Crimson Tide
Danny Collins
Dante's Peak
Dead Poets Society
Deep Blue Sea
Deep Impact
Deja Vu
Demolition Man
Dirty Dancing
Donnie Brasco
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot
Dude, Where's My Car?
Easy A
Eddie The Eagle
Ed Wood
Employee of the Month
Erin Brockovich
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Event Horizon
Everybody Wants Some!!
Executive Decision
Ex Machina
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Fatal Attraction
Field Of Dreams
Finding Forrester
For Love Of The Game
Friday Night Lights
Game Night
Gangs of New York
Garden State
Gone Girl
Gone In Sixty Seconds
Grosse Pointe Blank
Hail, Caesar!
Half Baked
Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
Head of State
He Got Game
Hocus Pocus
Hollywood Ending
Hot Tub Time Machine
How High
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Ingrid Goes West
Inherent Vice
Inside Man
Inside Out
In The Land Of Women
In The Line of Fire
Into The Wild
I, Tonya
Jaws: The Revenge
John Wick
Jurassic Park III
Jurassic World
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Kill Bill, Vol. 1
King Cobra
Kingdom Of Heaven
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Lady Bird
La La Land
Leave No Trace
Less Than Zero
Lethal Weapon
Little Miss Sunshine
Love & Mercy
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mamma Mia
Matchstick Men
Midnight Special
Million Dollar Arm
Mission: Impossible
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Mission: Impossible II
Mission: Impossible III
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Mississippi Grind
Mo' Better Blues
Mom and Dad
Money For Nothing
Moonrise Kingdom
Mr. Mom
Murder at 1600
My Cousin Vinny
National Lampoon's Vacation
Never Say Never
Ocean's Twelve
Old School
One Hour Photo
Open Water
Orange County
Out of Africa
Part of Me
Peter's Friends
Phantom Thread
Picture Perfect
Practical Magic
Public Enemies
Purple Rain
Raising Arizona
Red Dragon
Red Eye
Red Sparrow
Remember The Titans
Reversal Of Fortune
Rock Of Ages
Run All Night
Save The Last Dance
School Ties
Scream 2
Simply Complicated
Sleepaway Camp
Small Soldiers
Snakes On A Plane
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Southside With You
Space Jam
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
State and Main
Step Up
Steve Jobs
Sweet Home Alabama
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Addams Family
The Big Chill
The Big Sick
The Bling Ring
The Brady Bunch Movie
The Campaign
The Cell
The Cloverfield Paradox
The Color of Money
The Disaster Artist
The End of the Tour
The Family Man
The Fast and The Furious
The Fighter
The Flintstones
The Fly
The Fugitive
The Fundamentals of Caring
The Hateful Eight
The Holiday
The Hours
The Hunt For Red October
The Illusionist
The Indian In The Cupboard
The Insider
The Judge
The Jungle Book
The Last of the Mohicans
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
The Martian
The Matrix
The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions
The Meg
The Mexican
The Mighty Ducks
The Mission
The Mosquito Coast
The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Natural
The Negotiator
The Nice Guys
The Night Before
The Pagemaster
The Perfect Storm
The Poseidon Adventure
The Prestige
The Queen
The Recruit
The Revenant
The River Wild
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Rules of Attraction
The Shallows
The Sixth Sense
The Social Network
The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three
The Truman Show
The Watch
The Witches of Eastwick
This Is Where I Leave You
¬°Three Amigos!
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Tropic Thunder
Van Wilder
Varsity Blues
V For Vendetta
Welcome To Me
While You Were Sleeping
White House Down
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Wild Things
Wild Wild West
Win It All
Without A Paddle
Wyatt Earp
Young Adult
Zack and Miri Make a Porno