"Hotel Artemis" is, in one word, strange.
The premise is interesting: an underground hospital for criminals is under siege by other criminals. Unfortunately for "Hotel Artemis," "John Wick" already did the upscale criminal underground trope much better.
The hotel is founded on specific rules. You can’t kill any patients, no weapons. However, there is no explanation behind these arbitrary rules. Jodie Fosters “Nurse” could have established them for any reason, but the viewer is given nothing.
The hotel is placed in a riot-infested Los Angeles in 2028. Citizens rebel against the government to invade a nearby “Clearwater” building due to a lack of clean water. Bad pacing and questionable character motivations bring down a film with an all-star cast.
Director Drew Pearce (known for the disappointing “Iron Man 3”) falls into some of the same pitfalls he did with Tony Stark’s last solo-outing.
Jodie Foster’s “panic attacks” and reliance on showing her character dealing with mental illness feels somewhat insulting. Sadly, this isn’t the first time Pearce has messed this up. Iron Man 3 has many story beats regarding Stark’s panic attacks and his overall addictive nature.
Foster’s “Nurse” character falls into the same tropes — she’ll show how she’s an alcoholic, mourn quickly, have a small attack and then move on as if nothing happened to her. In a movie that takes place over the course of only one night, her severe panic attacks (triggered by going outside, and memories of her deceased son), should have had more impact on the character. Yet, when they happen, they are over within two minutes.
At only 94 minutes, the movie is a quick ride but has a strange pace.
The movie is branded as an action movie, yet, the movie is largely a drama with a few well-choreographed action scenes.
An hour and twenty minutes are spent building up the story, but then it explodes into an action scene and has a very unjustified ending. There are maybe 10-15 minutes of action scenes in the entire movie. When the movie strangely transitions to a fighting-climax, it becomes very brutal suddenly, which is quite jarring.
The movie could have easily been PG-13, yet, a few brutal deaths make it seem like an R rating was forced, for whatever reason.
World-building is set up for practically no reason. The riot-infested LA is mentioned briefly but merely serves as a backdrop. Context is rarely given for anything, and the motivations for characters are nonexistent. Jodie Foster’s “Nurse” only helps criminals, because, “enough people help the good guys.” Sure, but the reasoning isn’t fully-fleshed out.
The dialogue feels human, yet the motivations for the anti-heroes make little sense. Story beats that should have had a huge impact are brushed off quickly, and the lack of a strong villain weighs the movie down. The plot is muddled, and there is no sense of progression. Little explanation for decisions is standard here.
The stealing of a pen, filled with over $18 million worth of diamonds, would cause Jeff Goldblum’s “Wolf King of LA” to kill the ensemble cast, yet the pen is rarely mentioned in the movie.
Motivations feel out of left-field. Waikiki (Sterling Brown) is only a criminal because of his brother. It’s mentioned twice and never expanded upon.
Thankfully, the ensemble cast does make the movie fun. Regardless of odd pacing and writing for her character, Foster steals the show in every scene she’s in; Charlie Day plays the role of a lunatic perfectly; Sterling Brown is great; and Jeff Goldblum is, well, Jeff Goldblum.
Dave Bautista is quickly becoming typecast as the man known for delivering one-liners and becoming the large, lovable-yet-strong-funny-man. It feels like Pearce listened to a few lines of Bautista as Drax from “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and rewrote them slightly to make them fit in this movie’s universe.
However, at an hour and a half, some actors don’t get a great amount of screentime. Goldblum is in the movie for only a few minutes, yet is marketed as the main villain.
While the movie is very far from fantastic, it is fun thanks entirely to the cast. Yet, the film has an emptiness to it. It feels like there were another 30 minutes that should’ve been in the final cut to actually give the characters some room to breathe.