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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 11.11%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad77.78%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Hotel Artemis
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by Jay Seaver

"A good cast checks in, but the movie doesn't check out."
2 stars

How in the heck does this thing wind up playing a whole bunch of mainstream theaters in summer 2018? It feels like the natural home for this sort of idiosyncratic weird-corner-of-a-larger-unseen-universe flick is a genre film festival (where we're all wondering how a film starring Jodie Foster landed there) or a 1990s video store shelf. Even more than "Upgrade" last week, it's a weird grindhouse oddity pushed wide like something with broad appeal, although it doesn't even deliver on its weird promise as much as that one.

The year is 2028, Los Angeles is rioting because the private company that controls the water supply is turning off the tap, and that's either the best or worst time to rob a bank. Unfortunately for Sherman (Sterling K. Brown), his brother Lev (Brian Tyree Henry), and their accomplice Buke (Kenneth Choi), it means a lot of extra armed cops on the street, but they've got a plan for when the bullets find them: Chips in their wrists give them access to Hotel Artemis, whose first dozen floors may be abandoned, but the penthouse floor has been converted into five highly automated medical bays for criminals overseen by The Nurse (Jodie Foster), a hard-drinking, agoraphobic physician who has lost her license, and her hulking orderly Everest (Dave Bautista). This crew is assigned to the Honolulu and Waikiki suites, with Acapulco occupied by an obnoxious arms dealer (Charlie Day) and Nice by an international assassin (Sofia Boutella). That leaves one for The Wolf King of Los Angeles (Jeff Goldblum), who's about an hour away. Except there's a cop (Jenny Slate) wounded outside the entrance, and while that's obviously against club rules, The Nurse knows her from before.

That sounds like a great ticking time bomb of a setup, but that turns out not to be the case. Writer/director Drew Pearce has nested an interesting setup inside a believable near-future dystopia, but the story is absurdly slow to develop. The movie's first half is characters acknowledging each other as different degrees of mysterious and cool, but all they do is to complain that they can't watch TV, and let's be frank: If the people in the movie think what is going on in the background is much more interesting than their situation, why shouldn't the audience? It seems to be trying to live in the world of John Wick without establishing anyone other than Foster's Nurse as being as worth one's attention as John Wick, so that when a maybe half-decent action finale happens, we're not really invested.

It doesn't have to be that way; Pearce builds himself a world where he could use the growing reliance on paid subscription services and the reasons why these people live in paranoid isolation as a hook to get the audience thinking and add a little resonance when the violence starts, but it never becomes more than a cool-looking setup. Give him and the production team credit for that - the Hotel is an exceptionally neat setting, the run-down Art Deco framework of California's past colliding with robosurgeons, nanotechnology, and 3D printers extruding bone and tissue (how Pearce doesn't make more of certain weapons at the finale likely being made of synthetic bone is one of many frustrating missed opportunities). It's maddening how many things that seem like they could be the start of something interesting are just pushed aside, having served some small characterization purpose when they could be making things happen.

Take Jodie Foster out of this movie, and it isn't much. The Nurse seems like an odd choice for Foster's first acting job in five years (although people have said that for every non-prestige role she's taken since Silence of the Lambs), grubby and making casually sarcastic one-liners when she's not chewing on decent technobabble. Fortunately, Foster's going to make this half-baked collection of twitches and vague backstory into a person if it's the last thing she does, and it is kind of a gift to watch her and realize that the character hit a turning point a couple minutes earlier but one may have missed it because Foster didn't necessarily change her body language or way of talking on a macro level. The Nurse is going to be a slightly different mess at the end of this, but Foster will convince a viewer that the difference is real and not just the way these stories work.

The rest of the cast, on the other hand, definitely seems to belong there; it's an ensemble of people for whom giving their all to B movies is apparently a calling. Sterling K. Brown and Charlie Day have characters that the audience has seen a million times - the highly professional career criminal and the rich jackass - but they don't slack off. Dave Bautista is, as usual, sneakily great, and there is some severe under-use of Jeff Goldblum and Zachary Quinto. Plus, it's never a bad ten minutes or so when you get to watch Sofia Boutella move in an action scene, although you always want more of that.

Unfortunately, the action doesn't really kick in until the end, and as good as that last sequence is - Pearce and his crew don't mess it up - it's not the explosive break in tension that it should be, given all the potential in the setup and cast. It is, ironically, just good enough that if one encountered it at a genre festival or as a direct-to-video release, one might be inclined to wonder why something with this cast, polish, and world-building couldn't find a more mainstream release, even if it does prove a let-down when it does make the multiplex.

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originally posted: 06/12/18 03:08:55
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User Comments

12/27/18 Langano Nothing special. 2 stars
6/14/18 Bob Dog HA has a great vibe and a an awesome performance by Jodie Foster. 4 stars
6/12/18 Tony Brubaker A future cult-item par-excellence. 5 stars
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  08-Jun-2018 (R)
  DVD: 09-Oct-2018


  DVD: 09-Oct-2018

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