The world is on fire, both literally and figuratively. As of writing the UK is having a particularly extended heatwave and drought with multiple hose-pipe bans up and down the country. Politically we have Brexit here and over the pond a man who runs America like one of his businesses, which means he will con a lot of people out of their money and then go bankrupt in the next five years. Movies are a pleasant escape from these trying times, partially because they create worlds where issues can be solved neatly in about two hours and also because the theatre is usually airconditioned. So it is nice when the world in my escapist fantasy is also on fire, this is how we are introduced to the world of Hotel Artemis.
In 2028, during riots caused by the privatisation of water, Sherman and Lev are robbing a bank. Of course it goes wrong and Sherman is injured. Thankfully there is a hospital nearby, one that looks like a hotel, and it only treats criminals. Even though the hospital has rules, these habitual rule breakers are in the mood to disobey.
Hotel Artemis is undoubtedly stylish, leaning heavily into rococo hotel decore mixed with used future tech. It can get quite dark and muddled at points with the luxurious interior patterns cluttering the frame. This somewhat makes sense as Hotel Artemis is a hyperviolent future noir focused on criminals of honour being destroyed by that same honour. As such the film has some great action set pieces centred around those same criminals with twists and turns that take them further down the path of their destruction.
The characters themselves are plenty entertaining. We have Charley Day putting on his best arsehole as an arms dealer with a superiority and Napoleon complex. Sofia Boutella is calm and calculating as Nice, an assassin tasked with killing a mysterious target. Zachary Quinto and Jeff Goldblum make a good pair as a father and son of a criminal empire. Then we have Dave Batista stealing every scene he is in as a hospital orderly and “healthcare professional”. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Jodie Foster and Sterling K Brown provide the emotional core, the heart if you will, of the film as the nurse that runs the hospital hotel and a bank robber trying to save his dying brother respectively. The interactions between characters are great as well, with badass one-liners, funny little quips and references to pasts that expand the world to further than the hotel walls. But is there any more to Hotel Artemis than just blood and paint?
Unfortunately not. There is a lot in this film; there is a riot, a secret criminal hospital, a crime boss, a hit job, a bank robbery gone wrong, a nurse with a dead son and agoraphobia as well as fraternal issues. That and the relatively short 94 minute run time leave Hotel Artemis feeling unfinished and rushed. There are pieces of characters pasts that are hinted at or slowly revealed that could have been well played, but due to the multiple plot threads each is left feeling unsatisfying. We spend so much time setting up the world and the characters that it leaves little room for action and exploration. You could see this as a great TV show and with more significant time to explore the setting and characters it could have been an excellent rival to shows like Westworld. As it is, however, Hotel Artemis feels like several huge chunks are missing. We rush through some character’s back stories, while others are left a mystery, the film hints at things beyond itself, but its ambition undoes the film somewhat. Hotel Artemis wants to be an action film, a noir film, a comedy, a political commentary all rolled into one, but due to the complexity of the setup, it never settles into its pace.
Hotel Artemis, unfortunately, is a disposable film. But that shouldn’t be too bad, most movies are, but those lack the ambition that Hotel Artemis displayed. It oozes with style and creativity, an exciting world and characters to explore and get to know. It also has an interesting premise that could have worked wonders over a more long-form media format. But despite its style and premise it falls apart under inspection; it is overbooked, full of characters and plot threads that it references but does little to develop. If I were a hotel inspector I would have it condemned for structural issues.
You can watch Hotel Artemis in cinemas now