In his debut feature as director, acclaimed screenwriter Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) presents a star-studded anomaly of a film which is as deeply flawed script wise as it is thrilling thematically. Staring Jodie Foster in her first film role in five years, and the always brilliant Sterling K. Brown, Hotel Artemis follows the pair as they battle against some of the most fearsome criminals in LA at the mysterious Hotel Artemis, a hospital for criminals where only those who have paid their dues are allowed in.
The year is 2028 and Los Angels is suffering a clean water shortage crisis which only seems to be affecting the poorest in the city. After months of quiet seething anger, a popular uprising results in the city being put on shutdown, which doesn’t stop groups of protestors from taking to the streets to demand for their voices to be heard. When a heist he’d been busily planning for months goes wrong as a result of his own brother’s incompetence, Waikiki (Sterling K.Brown) must do all he can to save his, now gravely injured, brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) by taking him to the only place unlikely to ask any questions, the infamous Hotel Artemis where faithful nurse Jean Thomas (Jodie Foster) and resilient porter Everest (Dave Bautista) have been nursing the underworld back to health for over a decade.
Things descend into complete chaos when the brothers find themselves sharing their new hideout with ruthless Assassin, and Waikiki’s former lover, Nice (Sofia Boutella). Nice, who is here to complete a mission of her own, soon finds herself fending advances from the odious Acapulco (Charlie Day), a hateful and irritating figure whom nobody seems to like or even want to be around. Things take a turn for the worst with the arrival of LA’s biggest and most fearsome mob boss, a violent psychopath named The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), who finds himself at the hotel after being shot.
Writing as well as directing, Drew Pierce has devised an exciting and action-filled dystopian caper which, while not being without fault, still manages to thrill and impress with its beautifully well thought-out aesthetics and inspired cast list. Pitting interesting sociopolitical ideas against pure unadulterated action and lengthy fight scenes, Pierce manages to offer much more than anyone bargained for, even if he is ultimately let down by a screenplay which wants to be too many things at the same time.
A completely unrecognisable Jody Foster offers an inspired performance as nurse Joan, a woman broken by an undisclosed personal tragedy, while Sterling K. Brown is brilliant as a reformed criminal dragged back into an underworld he’d long left behind. Elsewhere, Charlie Day does his usual innocuous baddie schtick which must surely be getting old by now, and Sofia Boutella truly impresses as the resourceful Nice. Jeff Goldblum, in one of his best turns, is as captivating as ever in a role which was no doubt written with him in mind, while Batista is fantastic as the quiet yet reliable Everest.
On the whole, Hotel Artemis is a brave and ballsy endeavour which in the end sadly fails to fully convince, but which should be commended for even trying. Let down by its rushed denouement and rather overpopulated screenplay, the film could have easily lost one or two superfluous characters, but taking everything into account, the film still carries with it more weight than your average action packed thriller, and for that alone deserves too be seen by as many people as possible. Ambitious, yet flawed.
Hotel Artemis is in cinemas from Friday July 20th