The most intriguing character in Hotel Artemis is the titular structure, a vintage high-rise that provides a cool throwback vibe for an otherwise derivative science-fiction thriller.
The ambitious if highly uneven noir is set amid an anarchic near-future urban backdrop in which issues involving gun violence, water shortages, and healthcare costs have spiraled out of control. Yet the result isn’t as provocative as it aspires to be.
Of course, in dystopian Los Angeles circa 2028, the inn is no longer used for its intended purpose, but rather as a safe haven for lawbreakers and scoundrels seeking refuge from the widespread rioting taking place just outside the doors.
Almost the entire film takes place inside its walls, with Nurse (Jodie Foster) at the center of the action. She’s in charge of the top-secret, members-only facility, providing urgent medical care — she’s an expert in bullet wounds — without asking questions or getting emotionally involved.
Her assistant (Dave Bautista) also acts as a bouncer when trouble comes around, which is often. And on this particular night, the crowded patient roster includes a bank robber (Sterling K. Brown) caring for his brother, a mobster (Jeff Goldblum) with a financial stake in the hotel, a loudmouth arms dealer (Charlie Day), a sultry foreigner (Sofia Boutella), and an injured cop (Jenny Slate) with a connection to the nurse’s past.
Alongside its gritty retro visuals, the intriguing concept outweighs the haphazard execution in the screenplay by rookie director Drew Pearce, whose previous writing credits include Iron Man 3.
In her first prominent film role in five years, Foster offers a feisty performance that mixes strength and vulnerability, playing a woman whose world-weary nonchalance in dealing with constant crises includes a generous dose of morbid sarcasm to get through the day.
Around her, the atmospheric film is mildly intriguing as it juggles intertwining subplots with varying degrees of bleakness. However, none of the other characters receive enough attention to generate much sympathy. Plus, without context for exactly what’s going on outside the hotel, and why, the story lacks sufficient urgency and emotional resonance.
As the contrivances escalate, the suspense dwindles down the stretch. From a narrative standpoint, Hotel Artemis checks out early.