Hotel Artemis star Jodie Foster said she sought a lead role in the movie because she’s never seen anything like it.
Which confirms my suspicion that she doesn’t sit around watching John Wick movies, because there is a resemblance.
They are, in aggregate, over-the-top action/fantasy pictures about hotels that cater to criminals. In the case of Hotel Artemis, the institution’s mission statement is expanded to include health care. Foster plays the manager, known only as the Nurse, and it’s her job to welcome guests and treat them if they show up with bullet wounds, as they often do.
The movie is set in a near-future Los Angeles, where mass riots are occurring to protest the privatizing of the city’s water supply. The streets are dangerous to begin with, and the criminal impulses of the hotel’s clientele ensure that, oh yes, there will be blood.
Sterling K. Brown is fleeing a botched bank heist when he shows up with his wounded brother. He takes a room, sharing a floor with a mysterious assassin (Sofia Boutella) and a psychopathic loudmouth (Charlie Day, going against type, and not always successfully).
Writer-director Drew Pearce pitches the whole thing as a borderline comedy (also taking a page from the Wick pictures), an attitude that finds best expression in the words and deeds of the hotel’s hulking orderly (David Bautista), known as Everest, who also acts as a bouncer when on-the-lam guests get out of line and need to be shown the door, or when cops (Jenny Slate) show up seeking admission.
This problem of keeping order at the Artemis becomes complicated when the hotel’s criminal kingpin owner (Jeff Goldblum) shows up, spurting blood, while his son (Zachary Quinto ) and an army of thugs wait impatiently and ominously in the lobby.
It’s a powder keg, and the fuse of intrigue burns slowly – backstories are revealed, character arcs intersect, past converges with present. It’s the sort of intrigue that conceptually reaches all the way back to Grand Hotel, updated here with postapocalyptic trappings.
Yet there’s nothing especially striking about the movie’s visual presentation – the Artemis is threadbare and creaky, a purposely anachronistic blend of the future tech and throwback furnishings. The action is competent, the performers game. Boutella does soccer-style bicycle kicks in red dress and heels. Bautista administers convincing beat-downs, and poor Day keeps getting beaten up by just about everybody.
Most of the serious acting is done by Foster, who we come to understand is still mourning the death of her son, way back in the 1970s, accounting for the frozen-in-time atmosphere of the hotel. She still listens to period music on her headphones, playing old vinyl albums (Buffy Sainte-Marie!), matching her lived-in expression to the melancholy songs.
Her son, we’re told, died roughly the same year that Chinatown came out, reminding us that movies about L.A., water disputes, and murder go way back.
- Directed by Drew Pearce. With Jodie Foster, David Bautista, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella and Sterling K. Brown. Distributed by Global Road.
- Running time: 1 hour, 37 mins.
- Parents guide: R (violence, language)
- Playing at: Area theaters