By Daniel O’Connell
The summer movie season has finally started for 2018. With it brings the usual summer blockbusters and superhero fare that has come to be expected. However, there can be some hidden gems among these movies, and Hotel Artemis is one of them. The directorial debut of Drew Pearce (who created the show No Heroics, and co-wrote the story for Iron Man 3), is a rather good one, aided by an excellent ensemble cast of talented actors.
The film takes place in not-too-distant future Los Angeles. Public utilities like water and power have been privatized, people are rioting in the streets, and black outs are frequent. However, as the Nurse (Jodie Foster, in her first film role in five years) puts it, it’s just another Wednesday. She, along with her orderly/security Everest (Dave Bautista) run the Hotel Artemis, a secret hospital for high end criminals to use in emergency situations. The night at the Artemis seems like a usual Wednesday night, with its guests including a sleazy and surly arms dealer named Acalpulco (Charlie Day), and a sultry and sullen assassin named Nice (Sofia Boutella).
However, the night begins to take an interesting turn when bank robbers Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) come in for an emergency treatment following a botched bank robbery. The two robbers have unknowingly stolen property from a notorious crime lord known as the “Wolf King of L.A.” (Jeff Goldblum). Specifically, they stole $18 million dollars in yellow diamonds, stored in a fancy looking pen. With the Wolf King on his way for an emergency treatment, as well a cop showing up and begging for help, the Artemis has just become a powder keg waiting to blow.
It is immediately evident from the start that one of the major strengths of the film is its ensemble cast (which was heavily featured in the film’s advertising). Each actor in the film turns in a good, though sometimes just serviceable, performance. However, there are a few stand outs among the cast. The first is Jodie Foster as the Nurse, who has been keeping herself secluded in the Artemis for 22 years due to the guilt over losing her son. The second goes to Sterling K. Brown as Waikiki, a career criminal who has the makings of someone who could make something of himself, but is held back because of the loyalty to his brother Honolulu. Another great performance comes from David Bautista as Everest, who steals every scene he is in with his presence, humor, and clever dialogue. However, the most surprising performance comes from Charlie Day as Acapulco. He takes the usual loudmouth energy of his traditonal roles, and channels it into playing a sleazy, contemptible scumbag of a person. He will have the audience begging for him to get a violent death.
Despite what the advertising may show, there is not a lot of action in the film. However, it more than makes up for it with the interactions between the patrons of the Artemis. The different personalities bounce off of one another, with hints of an implied past between Waikiki and Nice. However, when things start to go to hell in a handbasket, the movie more than makes up for it in the action. With fantastic stunt work and fight scenes being done, the movie makes the waiting for the action up to that point worth it.
However, the movie still has its flaws, namely when it comes to its setting. The riots happening in Los Angeles barely play into the plot at all, and they only serve to get the wounded cop to the Artemis, which could honestly be done without. The only way the story takes advantage of the fact that it set in the future is to have technology such as nanites, organs made from 3D printers, and robotic auto-doctors. Aside from the riots and the future technology, the setting doesn’t seem too different from today. As a matter of fact, the Hotel Artemis wouldn’t feel out of place in the John Wick films.
One element that barely comes into play is the pen containing the yellow diamonds. It is first used to establish that the Wolf King does not take kindly to anyone stealing his property, and that Waikiki and Honolulu have landed in hot water. However, it does not play into anything else. The Wolf King does not even find out about the stolen diamonds.
Another flaw of the film would come down to its plot. The film gets the ball rolling in the opening scene, establishing the setting through news broadcasts, and shows Honolulu and Waikiki’s bank robbery. However, things start to slow down during the second act, which gives time for the Nurse and the Artemis’s patrons to interact with each other. The pacing of the second act will annoy people that are looking for action packed scenes. However, as stated earlier, it makes up of the lack of action in its climax.
Featured image from Tennessean
While Hotel Artemis is a film that lacks in plot and action, it definitely makes up for it in its style, atmosphere, and characters. The ensemble cast give out great performances, and the different interactions between the colorful characters is a treat to watch. However, what brings it down is that it doesn’t take advantage of its future setting, as well as the pacing issues when it comes to the second act. All in all, it’s still definitely a treat for those looking for something different than the usual blockbuster fare.
Plot & Setting
Daniel is a Journalism major and a History minor. Daniel’s hobbies include playing video games, watching movies, writing short stories and fan fiction, and listening to music. He hopes to use his work at Byte as a stepping stone for his journalism career.