In the “John Wick” movies, Keanu Reeves’ title character is a hitman who’s a member of an international organization of criminals. In order to remain members (and alive), they have all agreed to follow a set of rules, including not killing or fighting each other in The Continental and other hotels managed by Winston (Ian McShane), who oversees the global operation.
Now we get “Hotel Artemis,” which is not part of the “John Wick” series but plays like it could be. Once again, we’re introduced to a venue that’s for criminals only, a discreet emergency room that offers them safety while having their wounds repaired. Unlike The Continental and its sister luxury facilities, Hotel Artemis is on the top floor of a rundown building where the only touch of high-tech exists in the robotic arms that help Nurse tend to the injured.
Jodie Foster is Nurse, the only medical professional in the place. It’s the best role Foster has had in a long while (I think the last time we saw her on screen was in the dreadful “Elysium” five years ago), and she plays it perfectly, with a scowl on her face as she half-runs/half-walks from room to room. She’s seen it all in the 22 years she’s spent in this facility — especially gunshot wounds, as she explains while tending to one of the criminals: “This is America. Ninety-five percent of what I treat is bullet holes.” Nurse just goes on patching up the patients, giving them 3D-printed new organs when necessary, and enforcing the rules (no guns, no fighting, no cops). Her only human assistant is Everest (Dave Bautista), an orderly whose name matches his size.
The other characters are known by the Hotel Artemis rooms to which they’ve been assigned, all named after famous places. Sterling K. Brown is Waikiki. Sofia Boutella (who reminds me of Famke Janssen) is Nice. Charlie Day is Acapulco. Brian Tyree Henry is Honolulu. There are also smaller roles for Jenny Slate as an unexpected patient, Jeff Goldblum as a villain, and Zachary Quinto as his son.
For most of the movie, “Hotel Artemis” is a lot of talk with little action, but with all those violent criminals in the same space, something’s going to take a turn for the worse, and it does in the last 20 minutes. Unfortunately, that’s when the plot breaks down, as if writer/director Drew Pearce has a good story but no way to end it, and he doesn’t resolve some of the poorly explained sub-plots, such as one involving canary-yellow diamonds and another involving Nurse’s flashbacks about her son.
I’m torn about whether I should recommend “Hotel Artemis.” I usually stay away from movies that take place in a dystopian future. This one’s set in 2028 and includes people rioting in the streets because the corporation that owns the water company has shut off the supply to the citizens. I don’t know if that was Pearce’s commentary on Flint or yet another MacGuffin, but the world outside the walls of the hotel have so little to do with what’s going on inside that it doesn’t matter.
Meanwhile, Foster’s performance is really entertaining, and the supporting cast is quite good (particularly Brown and Boutella), but they’re not given enough to do and the denouement is really disappointing. It’s possible that this will have a low-key box-office start like the first “John Wick” movie, but then gain enough of a fan base on other platforms that it spawns a sequel. Maybe a new story with Nurse and different criminals?
For now, I’m giving “Hotel Artemis” a 5 out of 10.
Previously on Harris Online…
- My review of “John Wick, Chapter 2,” with Keanu Reeves as a hitman you really don’t want to piss off (2/15/17).