The one element of the otherwise engaging John Wick movies that left me cold was the plot device of a Hotel for Hitmen, a venue where all manner of assassins could converge and do business – – although a strict code prevented any dirty deeds from occurring within the hotel grounds itself.
Whatever thin level of realism the action-packed Wick movies operated on flew out the window with the addition of this bizarre plot element, so alien to any notion of reality that to appreciate the movies you have to accept that they take place in an alternate reality, or on another planet.
Well, the “Hotel for Hitmen” concept is the entire premise of Hotel Artemis, a slickly-made and surprisingly well-cast film that might be perfectly enjoyable if you can get past the surreal central gimmick.
In an attempt to make the core idea palatable, Hotel Artemis is set in a slightly near-future Los Angeles ravaged by riots. It doesn’t seem all that different than its modern-day counterpart, save for some key advancements in medical technology.
The Hotel Artemis makes prime use of that tech as the go-to destination for bad guys who have been mortally wounded. I’m wondering if you’re average brink-of-death criminal would really risk the trek through L.A. traffic (riots or not) to this downtown destination rather than their nearest hospital, and just how many of them are getting mortally wounded every day to justify an establishment that specifically caters to their needs.
The answer, apparently, is five: when Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and Honolulu (Bryan Tryee Brown) join Acapulco (Charlie Day) and Nice (Sofia Boutella) at the Hotel Artemis after a bank robbery gone very wrong, that leaves just a single room in the L.A. skyscraper left.
That puts proprietor Nurse (Jodie Foster) and assistant Everest (Dave Bautista) in a precarious position. Do they save the last room for incoming mob boss and Artemis owner Niagara (Jeff Goldblum, who appears only briefly), on his way with a gunshot wound and violent son Crosby (Zachary Quinto) in tow? Or do they break the rules and help out a wounded police officer (Jenny Slate) who just happens to go down outside the front door.
That’s about the extent of the drama in Hotel Artemis, which isn’t exactly a conundrum: Foster’s Nurse seems like a good gal, so of course she’s gonna patch up the cop. And, well, she’ll help out Goldblum’s boss, too, ‘cause the med tech fixes gunshot wounds in minutes and it’s just a room, after all; it’s not like this isn’t a problem faced by real hospitals. And three of the patients seem perfectly healthy, anyway.
Despite the presence of a fine cast and competent filmmaking from writer-director Drew Pearce, the lack of any real-world authenticity, or at least some kind of internal logic, makes every character action alien and unrelatable and turns Hotel Artemis into a tedious experience.
Coming out of this fine, however, are Boutella and the wise-cracking Bautista (in deadpan Drax the Destroyer mode), who approach Hotel Artemis with an appropriate sense of what this B-movie material should be: fun. Both get in on the film’s very brief climactic action, with Boutella oozing some real star-power charisma.
Poor Foster and Brown (who made a real splash as Johnnie Cochran on FX’s American Crime Story), however, seem to be taking Hotel Artemis much to seriously: their committed performances might be affecting in a more serious-minded drama, but seem out of place in this wonky fantasyland.
A Tarantino-esque riff that might have played well in the 1990s, Hotel Artemis feels a good two decades out-of-date. If you can get past the bizarro-world central premise, however, you might find something to like here.