Starring Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Jenny Slate, Charlie Day, Zachary Quinto, Jeff Goldblum
It’s been a good year for directorial debuts. Producer/writer turned director Drew Pearce creates an unusual futuristic world with Hotel Artemis. It’s a suspense thriller with cleverness and a superb cast. Jodie Foster is back on the screen for the first time since the disappointing Elysium (2013) and Pearce’s sense of humor and violence isn’t too far from a Neill Blomkamp production. In fact, without the two-time Oscar winning actress I think this unusual story wouldn’t work half as well. Pearce’s script strives for originality, achieving it for the most part. All the characters feel like fresh individual creations that don’t mirror anyone else we recognize this year.
In the midst of violent Los Angeles riots in the year 2028 over the lack of clean water, a tall building with an illuminated neon sign advertises Hotel Artemis. It’s really a hospital for the most dangerous criminals in the city. Founded by the man known as Wolf King (Goldblum), he may own it, but it’s very clear that “The Nurse” Jean Thomas (Foster) is in charge once you gain access. There are specific rules for admittance: no guns, no cursing at staff, no killing the other patients. It’s a busy Wednesday at the Artemis, with nearly all the rooms being occupied. Patients are given code names matching their rooms. Waikiki (Brown) came in with his badly wounded brother but gets nervous when he sees former girlfriend Nice (Boutella) who is a known assassin. “No water in LA, but it’s raining a**holes in here,” Thomas scoffs.
Without the two-time Oscar winning Jodie Foster I think this unusual story wouldn’t work half as well.
The biggest detractors from Hotel Artemis is a lack of material to unpack mentally. Just because Jodie Foster, Jeff Goldblum and Sterling K. Brown are the stars gives a false sense of depth. This is a higher brow action flick that is just that, fun, exciting, and riveting. The built-up tension intensifies with every new patient or every time The Nurse’s notepad beeps with an alert. Foster isn’t the only one playing against type here, comedian Jenny Slate continues to widen her cinematic reach, and even though Sofia Boutella (The Mummy, Atomic Blonde) is once again playing an assassin, still fun to watch. Don’t expect longevity from Goldblum, despite limited screen time, he does a lot with very little.
Hotel Artemis feels like a breath of fresh air after sitting through sequel after prequel on top of reboot, for half the year. These days, you’re thankful for any story that introduces new concepts, characters and plot details outside a franchise. Hotel Artemis moves swiftly, barely giving the audience a sense of this futuristic world and hospital legacy everyone speaks about. We are introduced to normality very quickly before everything turns upside down and all the important hospital rules are broken. Foster gets more character development and performance material here than the entire cast of Oceans 8 combined.
Jodie Foster’s best performance in years.