Hotel Artemis is one of the great missed opportunities as a plot that I have ever witnessed. Writer-Director Drew Pearce had a great idea for a movie and squandered it with poor pacing, a lack of colorful characters and a lack of overall ambition. Settling for a generic action movie, Hotel Artemis failed a really great central premise that reads like something out of the John Wick universe. Of course, I shouldn’t mourn the movie Hotel Artemis is not but it’s hard not to think about how good it could have been.
Hotel Artemis stars Jodie Foster as The Nurse, we eventually learn her name but most everyone at the Artemis is known by codenames. The Nurse is in charge of the Artemis, a hidden hospital in a seemingly abandoned Los Angeles Hotel. This hospital caters to a specific, high-end clientele of very rich criminals who maintain access via a monthly fee. With a riot brewing outside the hotel, it’s about to be a very busy night.
First arriving are Sherman (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother Lev (Brian Tyree Henry). They just robbed a bank and in the aftermath, Lev was shot. Lucky for them, they’re paid up on their Artemis bills. Lev is hurt bad but much worse for him is what he’s stolen from the bank. In the midst of the robbery, Lev took an expensive looking pen from a very angry henchmen. The pen is actually a mini-vault carrying millions of dollars in diamonds belonging to a man known as The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum).
Just the idea of a movie where Jeff Goldblum plays a character named ‘The Wolf King’ would be enough to recommend but sadly the movie doesn’t have much to do with these characters. Instead, the movie introduces several other unnecessary characters who consistently get in the way of the action. Sophia Boutella plays Nice, another Artemis client who has an agenda but plays more like a love interest for Sherman than a character necessary to the plot. At the very least, Boutella is sultry and badass but the character isn't particularly well-rounded.
The most egregious addition to the cast however, is Charlie Day who has zero to do with the plot of Hotel Artemis. Day plays a patient given the codename Acapulco and is basically on hand to act like Charlie Day. If you’re familiar with Charlie Day’s style you know what you’re getting here. I like Charlie Day but his schtick is entirely unnecessary. His character could be completely removed from Hotel Artemis and have no bearing on the plot. He just consistently gets in the way.
Jenny Slate and Zachary Quinto also play entirely unneeded characters. Slate is a cop with a connection to The Nurse whom The Nurse breaks the rules of the Hotel to rescue. Slate is on hand to provide backstory but it’s clear that the same backstory could be layered in via the flashbacks the film employs even with Slate on hand to provide the same information. The character is a clumsy addition to an already overstuffed movie.
I can’t imagine why Zachary Quinto was chosen for the role of The Wolf King’s doofus son. Perhaps he had a lifelong goal of being insulted by Jodie Foster and Jeff Goldblum while he acts like a complete buffoon? It’s a weird motivation but it would be one I could understand. I can’t understand it any other way because the character is atrociously written and badly performed. Quinto plays the role as an over the top, whiny man-baby and while I assume it’s supposed to be humorous, the laughs never come.
If the intent is to force humor into Hotel Artemis with Day and Quinto, it’s a complete failure. The only actor who manages to get a legitimate laugh is Dave Bautista who employs a little bit of his Drax deadpan from Guardians of the Galaxy to get the only laughs to be had in Hotel Artemis. Bautista is completely wasted in the role of a archetypal good-hearted thug. He's a tremendous presence with well-honed charm from his Guardians role. Little of that charm potential is tapped in Hotel Artemis.
Bautista’s Everest is a badass killer who works for The Nurse because he cares about her. He’s perhaps a big blunt instrument whose job is hitting people and enforcing the rules of the Artemis but in minimal screentime, Bautista paints an entire picture of Everest as a sensitive soul who could smash you to tiny, tiny pieces with his bare hands if he has to. Bautista has charisma to spare in Hotel Artemis but Writer-Director Drew Pearce has overstuffed the movie so much he doesn’t have time for him.
Hotel Artemis has such a killer premise. It’s something right out of the John Wick universe, a secret hospital for criminals. I imagine it much like the hotel in John Wick where killers all stay under the same roof but aren’t allowed to kill while they stay there. Hotel Artemis is the same idea but with a hospital. Something like this would have to exist in the John Wick universe and Hotel Artemis could have tapped that unique spirit and failed miserably.
Again, I should not review Hotel Artemis for what it isn’t, I know that. It’s just such a great premise though! Sorry, as it is, Hotel Artemis is sloppy and clunky, overstuffed with characters and especially with characters of no consequence. The film wastes its best assets like Dave Bautista or Jeff Goldblum’s weirdo qualities, which are sorely missed in a character called The Wolf King, and thus my review of what Hotel Artemis actually is, is simply that is a bad movie.
Hotel Artemis is on Blu Ray, DVD and On-Demand services this week.