Hotel Artemis: short on amenities, full of character(s)

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Hotel Artemis
Opens June 8
3 out of 5

While John Wick fans loved the clever gunplay and originally choreographed brawls, the element that made the Keanu Reeves franchise special was the mythology: the premise of a hotel chain that shelters assassins as long as they don’t kill each other on the premises oozed potential.

Hotel Artemis takes that idea and builds an entire film around it. The Artemis is not quite the Continental: it’s a rundown building reconditioned as an emergency ward. It can only take four patients at the time, usually wounded criminals who need first aid. The place is run by Nurse Thomas (Jodie Foster), a decertified practitioner who hasn’t left the hotel in decades, and Everest (Dave Bautista), an orderly who doubles as muscle.

The film takes place during a particularly busy night in the near future. The streets of L.A. are on fire due to social unrest (water has become scarce and expensive). Two brothers who have just perpetrated a robbery arrive in the hotel with bullet wounds. Unfortunately for them, the mafioso they ripped off is also on his way to the Artemis. Did I mention a contract killer hired to take out the Don is also in the building? The nurse and Everest must work overtime to keep their hospital from becoming a morgue as the criminal shenanigans escalate.

The film is thoroughly entertaining, a wacky mash-up of Paul Schrader and Wes Anderson’s sensibilities. Even when it trades in genre tropes, the top-notch cast elevates the material. Foster (who hasn’t had a starring role since Elysium) is a hoot as the brittle, willful Nurse Thomas, and her unexpected chemistry with Dave Bautista is one of the movie’s secret joys. Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us) as the proverbial “good thief” shows that he’s leading man material. The cherry on top of is Jeff Goldblum, whose purring, off-kilter delivery can be quite menacing if intended.

Hotel Artemis probably won’t make much of a mark, but at a time when blockbusters come up short more often than not (ahem, Solo, ahem), it’s nice when a smaller film does exactly the opposite.