REVIEW: ‘Hotel Artemis’ has its moments, but is weighed down by the story

Normally, I love staying at hotels. However, I’m not sure I’d like staying in the “hotel” featured in this picture.

“Hotel Artemis” takes place in the not-too-distant future and is set in Los Angeles. We pick up in a riot-torn city, with residents upset over rising water prices. In the middle of all the chaos, a criminal named Waikiki (Sterling Brown) and his brother go to the Hotel Artemis after a job goes bad.

The audience soon learns that the Hotel Artemis is sort of combo, with overnight rooms as well as a medical staff, making it somewhat of a hospital. The facility is run by a character who just goes by Nurse (Jodie Foster) and the building is rather secure, with no weapons or violence allowed. However, with rioting in the streets and one of LA’s top gangsters headed to the Artemis, tensions rise.

While “Artemis” is based in the future, it is reminiscent of other films of cinema’s past. Mainly, the picture uses the concept of having a group of people with vastly different personalities together in a confined space for an extended period of time. Most films use this as a way to have various types of interactions between two (or more) opposites for some interesting banter.

“Hotel Artemis” is no exception. Some of the best sequences of the film include some of the characters’ interactions with one another. Likely the best one includes a scene with Waikiki as well as two other ‘guests:’ Nice (Sofia Boutella) and Acapulco (Charlie Day). There’s a segment where the three have a bit of a standoff and it’s fun and entertaining.

While these moments are compelling, though, the film as a whole is undercut because of a rather convoluted story with too many side-plots. For example, there’s a section of the film that’s taken up by the Nurse helping an LAPD officer (which is technically against the rules of the Artemis). In the end it doesn’t amount to much other than to provide some filler for the Nurse’s own backstory, but overall it felt out of place.

There were also some performances that were wasted here. Jeff Goldblum has very little screentime as LA’s top mobster and the film doesn’t have much to do for his son, played by Zachary Quinto. Dave Bautista, meanwhile, is just there to be Drax-lite.

Some other performances here included Day and Boutella. Even though Day puts a lot of energy into the role, it’s still hard to buy him as a bad guy, and there were times his style clashed with what the movie was going for. With Boutella, she is fine in the action sequences, but doesn’t offer much depth to the character she’s playing.

Of course what helps the film immensely are the two leads, Brown and Foster. Brown brings an immense amount of charm to his character while Foster’s experience gives the Nurse role some gravity.

Stylistically, the setting of the film is pretty good. The Artemis is a classic looking hotel that’s had an extreme security and medical makeover. It creates a cool place for the characters to gather. I was disappointed in the action, though, as there’s only one good fight scene and it’s nothing groundbreaking, despite being engaging. Also, the film teases a fight with Bautista’s character but barely shows any of it, unfortunately.

There are some themes that play into “Artemis,” such as greed and loyalty, as well as some real world issues. However, the focus of “Artemis” always remains on the entertainment value more, which is perfectly fine. However, the over-the-top nature of much of the picture clashed when it tried to get more serious with the Nurse’s backstory.

The movie clocks in at just around 90 minutes, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome. There are some fun character moments here and the setting has its perks. But there isn’t as much style with the choreography or the cinematography. Plus, the story just wasn’t very well executed, with the second act especially feeling disjointed and without momentum, and the film ends without much of an impact. It’s one that’s fun enough to catch on home release, but not in the theater. 2.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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