You might be a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s mindset and of the Jack Wick pictures but that does not guarantee affection got “Hotel Artemis. Though there are three fine performances here—those of Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown and Sofia Boutella—the movie is lacking in a solid story and depends on episodic incidents, some violent, also considerable copy-cat fighting particularly involving a woman who speaks French but can take care of herself even when attacked by four male thugs.
This is Foster’s first film since “Elysium” in 2013-- yet another dystopian feature but with a more interesting story about how the rich live on a man-made space station while the rest of us must bide our time on an earth ruined by climate change and other man-made disasters. While “Elysium” is set in 2174, “Hotel Artemis” moves on only until 2028. The good news is that the earth has survived. The bad news is: why bother? Los Angeles is in a state of anarchy, each day like the 24-hour period that motivates “The Purge.” While criminals are at risk, there is just one safe house that virtually guarantees protection. The Hotel Artemis, a well-known old structure that freely advertises its location is secretly available only to members. And to be a member you must be a dangerous criminal, a fact not likely mentioned by Trivago.
The structure is run by “Nurse,” who has available some of the most modern robotic surgery equipment with corresponding computer screeners from the floor to the ceiling. When criminals begin checking in by showing their membership cards, she opens the gate, a woman whose use of a rotary dial telephone and hi fi turntable seems an anomaly when set against her high tech equipment.
When she admits hotel owner “Niagara” (Jeff Goldblum) violence is triggered inside the safe house involving rival gangs. Guests include “Waikiki” (Sterling K. Brown), “Nice” (Sofia Boutella), “Honolulu” (Brian Tyree Henry) and others, including a policewoman, Morgan (Jenny Slate) whom she admits for reasons of her own despite the cop’s non-membership. With the marmoreal “Everest” (Dave Bautista) running security, “Nurse” insists that the rules are paramount, that nobody is above the law. When the rules are broken, havoc reigns within as well as without.
The usual gunplay, knifings, strangulations, death by hard objects and even elevator shafts keeping the energy flowing, the episodic nature of the short movie (actually a mere 85 minutes without the end-credits) has no way of being redeemed by the dystopian ambiance filmed well by Chung Hoon-Chung behind the lens or by the eight-person make-up team which gave Jodie Foster an eerie look of a woman a decade or more her age.
Writer-director Drew Pearce in his freshman role as director of a full length feature, is in his métier, having scripted “Iron Man 3” and “Mission Impossible—Rogue Nation.”
Unrated. 96 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online