At first glance, the trailer for “Hotel Artemis” could be mistaken for the “John Wick” spin-off series “The Continental.” Both feature a special criminals-only hotel that offers safety, medical attention, and rules to protect the patrons from each other. But that’s about where the comparisons end.
“Hotel Artemis” takes place during a night one decade in the future, June 21st, 2028. A Los Angeles Fresh Water company has cut off its supply to non-paying citizens and a city-wide riot has broken out. With all the local PD tied up, the door is open for other crimes to be committed. As the film opens, chronically unlucky Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his younger brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) are in the midst of bungling a bank robbery. Mortally injured, they check into “Hotel Artemis” for care, but despite all the rules, hanging out with other criminals in the midst of a riot isn’t the safest place to be. Each guest is known only by their hotel room. Besides the Hawaii room, we also meet Acapulco (Charlie Day) a foolishly arrogant arms dealer, and Nice (Sofia Boutella) a foxy femme fatale. The hotel/clinic is overseen by a neurotic Nurse (Jodie Foster) and the rules enforced by a mountainous “health care professional” called Everest (Dave Bautista)
The slightly futuristic setting is a nice touch and allows the film some flourish while also excusing some of the more extreme stretches in logic. Sure you can 3D print a firing gun today, but it usually takes a few days to print, not a few minutes! It also helps create a visually enjoyable aesthetic that blends old with new. Art Deco frames glowing, glitching, computer overlays. Cutting edge robotic medical equipment looks old and worn with use. Even the characters themselves are modernized versions of LA Noir archetypes. All of this combines to make a highly enjoyable first half. Writer and first-time director Drew Pearce gleefully paints this world and their characters for us, putting all his pieces in place for the confrontation we know is inevitable. Rules are bent, then broken and everything starts to go wrong. Unfortunately, after all this setup, the climax is where the movie falters.
In retrospect, there are hints of a much larger movie here, but for some reason (budget? schedule?) it never made it on screen. There is a character early in the film who is established to come back and haunt them later, but he never returns. Action sequences feel oddly abbreviated. A key character seems to transport from one location to another. The McGuffin goes almost completely ignored. The list goes on. It’s a shame as the characters and setting are so interesting and fun that we want to see more! The ending should be able to deliver a satisfying climax in relation to the amount of time spent setting it up, but it’s unable.
“Hotel Artemis” is a fun, silly, action film with great visuals and vibrant characters, but the ending goes down like bitter medicine.