It’s 2028 and rioting fills the streets of Los Angeles. Disputes over water, now privatised, have reached a volatile point and the city is put under curfew. With the water shut down, and a population desperate, the city’s residents have nothing to lose and take to the streets.
Within the mayhem is a botched bank heist, led by Wakiki (Sterling K. Brown), who ends up taking his seriously wounded brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) for treatment at the Hotel Artemis. This is no five-star spa, though: it’s a 13-storey, secret, members-only hospital for criminals, hidden away in the centre of the city, where the guests have code names based on the rooms they’re staying in, and are bound by the strict hotel rules – like not killing other guests…
Running the impressive, technologically advanced medical operation is the Nurse, Jean Thomas (Jodie Foster), who’s highly skilled at putting criminals back together again; there’s a reason membership of the hotel is so exclusive. Alongside her towering assistant Everest (Dave Bautista), who acts as both surgical support and bouncer, Nurse deftly juggles the various problems surrounding the hotel guests. However, she’s also dealing with her own demons of agoraphobia and alcoholism, brought on, we learn, by the death of her son some twenty years ago, and whilst she may be swift at printing 3D body parts to transplant into her patients, she does so with the use of a bottle standing by.
The Nurse runs a tight ship and sticks to the rules and the hotel is running at capacity. Racist, misogynist arms dealer and con artist Acapulco (Charlie Day) is being stitched up in one room; French assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella) is recovering from a gunshot wound in another; and Honolulu is on life support, being watched over by Wakiki. Unfortunately, the city’s most notorious crime lord The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) is also in need of urgent treatment, and his volatile son Crosby (Zach Quinto) is threatening to shut down the hotel unless Nurse fixes him. Throw into this mix a wounded cop (Jenny Slate) – police are banned from the hotel – who seems to have a bond with the Nurse, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Writer/director Drew Pearce has cleverly woven these multiple narratives into his thrilling, funny, action packed directorial debut. The multiple interconnecting stories and characters provide much hilarity and tension, and the stellar ensemble cast are excellent. They are all bad people, doing terrible things, but each of them are eminently watchable – even if it feels like a bit of a guilty pleasure. The production design (Ramsey Avery) is gorgeous, and the delicious, neo-noir cinematography (Chung Chung-hoon) and snappy editing (Paul Zucker) embodies the dystopia of this near-future tale.
No stranger to action sequences, given Pearce’s writing work on Iron Man 3, the fight scenes and stunts are also fantastic – particularly Boutella’s, which are reminiscent of the corridor scene of The Punisher in Netflix’s Daredevil, but with added acrobatics. Hotel Artemis is a bold, loud, ambitious film, far cleverer than the bog-standard summer blockbuster fare, and with sharp humour and driving suspense it makes this pulpy-sci fi thriller a very fun watch.
Zoe Margolis | @girlonetrack