There’s something exhilarating about seeing solid actors chew hard on a preposterous premise. Submitted for your guilty pleasure: Hotel Artemis.
Understand, when I say preposterous, I’m not talking about superhero movies. They’re so weed-like, it’s debatable whether anyone even acts in them anymore.
Or… Hotel Artemis, set in an about-to-be-apocalyptic L.A., where a brightly lit high-rise hotel doesn’t take guests, except through the backdoor. And then only dues-paying criminals in need of medical care, who receive world-class black-market surgery at the hands of an agoraphobic, alcoholic, disbarred surgeon nicknamed The Nurse (Jodie Foster).
The Nurse is ably assisted by her aptly named nurse Everest (Dave Bautista, who repeats the words “I am a health-care professional” in much the say way that his Guardians of the Galaxy cast-mate Vin Diesel would say, “I am Groot!”)
Written and directed by Drew Pearce (who wrote, um, Iron Man 3), Hotel Artemis is a pastiche of plot points sewn together haphazardly, but which serve the purpose of putting just the right/wrong people in The Nurse’s ward to make the whole operation fall apart violently within 97 quickly-moving minutes.
As it opens, we meet Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown), whose gang is attempting to pull off a robbery under cover of a thirsty mob of rioters violently protesting L.A.’s water shortage (probably the most believable plot-point in the movie).
However, the robbery goes south, some gang members die, and Waikiki is admitted to the Artemis with his wounded brother Hololulu (Brian Tyree Henry). There he meets some of the other “patients,” who are as likely as not to be found lounging in a lounge, cocktail in hand. At times, the Artemis is reminiscent not so much of a hospital as The Continental in the John Wick movies.
In any case, enter an obnoxious arms dealer named Acapulco (Charlie Day), a beautiful French assassin named Nice (Sofia Boutella) and, eventually, the bullet-wounded chief investor in the Hotel Artemis, the city’s top crime boss The Wolf King, played by Jeff Goldblum. (Thor: Ragnarok was apparently just the beginning of Goldblum’s new career as a quirky, chatterbox villain.)
I’m not sure what sort of mobster Goldblum is supposed to be playing, but he’s got a homicidal son-with-daddy-issues named Ilya (Zachary Quinto) who’s yet another loose-wheel on the ward. And oh yeah, there’s also a wounded cop (Jenny Slate), whom Nurse takes in for (eventually-revealed) personal reasons over the objections of all concerned.
Pearce shakes this bag of good and nogoodniks around in various permutations, pausing every so often to kill someone, while getting the most out of everybody – particularly Boutella (The Mummy), whose ass-kicking episodes might as well be an audition for an Avengers’ reboot. The lifeblood of the movie, however, is Foster, who, in her delivery as The Nurse, seems to be channeling Melissa Leo and Steve Buscemi at the same time.
Hotel Artemis will never be a franchise. I’d be surprised if there was even a sequel. But as a stand-alone bit of dark, cheesy fun, I’ll take it.
Hotel Artemis. Written and directed by Drew Pearce. Starring Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown and Jeff Goldblum. Opens wide Friday, June 8.