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Hotel Artemis

Directed by Drew Pearce
Produced by Marc Platt, Adam Siegel, Stephen Cornwell, and Simon Cornwell
Written by Drew Pearce
With: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, and Dave Bautista
Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung
Editing: Paul Zucker and Gardner Gould
Music: Cliff Martinez
Runtime: 94 min
Release Date: 08 June 2018
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
Color: Color

Jodie Foster stars as a Nurse who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals in the dystopian Los Angeles of 2028. The Hotel Artemis, as this underworld hospital is called, faces its most challenging night when a riot breaks out in Los Angeles over the privatization of water. That’s the fantastic premise of screenwriter/producer Drew Pearce’s directorial début. Unfortunately, the co-writer of Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation delivers little more than a flimsy, uninvolving exercise in style, where even the surface details lack dimension.

Hotel Artemis is perhaps the best example yet of a week contemporary genre picture that would probably have been terrific had it been made in the 1980s, when ambitious, high-concept, low-budget films like this relied on innovative direction, clever plotting with richly drawn characters, and actors (famous or not) that could persuade you that the hokum you were watching was worth investing in. But in today’s CGI-dependent landscape, where screen depictions of dystopian futures are so prevalent it’s difficult to tell one movie from another, futuristic tales come off like clones of analogue copies already experiencing major generational loss.

In lieu of developing an actual plot, Pearce creates a premise, a setting, and some thin relational dynamics on which he hangs action, set pieces, and what passes for banter. He populates the film with A-list talent, but most everyone in the movie is woefully miscast. Sterling K. Brown (star of the FX miniseries The People v. O. J. Simpson and NBC’s This Is Us) fails to convince as an opportunistic bank robber who takes advantage of the riots to make a score—even though the character seems written to take advantage of Brown’s intelligent, empathetic screen persona. Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde, Star Trek Beyond, and The Kingsman pictures) plays a kick-ass assassin meant to be the toughest, smartest killer you’ve ever seen—although most of her deliberate choices and accidental missteps make her look inept.  Jenny Slate (Obvious Child) is laughable as a police officer—she’d last about ten seconds in the world this story depicts. Jeff Goldblum leans too far into a small role that may have been created expressly for his kooky persona. And Charlie Day plays an arrogant, loudmouth arms merchant—the kind of guy we’re suppose to love to hate, but instead we just hate.  Zachary Quinto (Margin Call, the rebooted Star Trek series) and Dave Bautista (Spectre, Blade Runner 2049, the Guardians of the Galaxy movies) fair far better at breathing life into their underwritten roles.

The biggest disappointment is Foster, who acts in fewer and fewer films these days. She should elevate this picture but, instead, the movie pulls her down to its level. As with each actor in Hotel Artemis, she seems to be directed and photographed like her character’s emotions must be conveyed in the static, two-dimensional frames of a comic book, where thoughts and feelings are read both via extreme facial expressions and little thought bubbles of text.

The steampunk inspired production design by Ramsey Avery (10 Cloverfield Lane) is meant to draw attention to the claustrophobic, single-set nature of this low-budget film. But the heavy reliance on generic futuristic gizmos and technologies called for in the script render a bland setting. Even the shadowy, widescreen photography of Chung Chung-hoon (Lady Vengeance, Stoker, The Handmaiden) can’t raise the pulse of this lifeless cinematic skeleton.

Twitter Capsule:
Flimsy, low-budget action drama about a members-only hospital for criminals in dystopian LA is perhaps the best example yet of a generic, contemporary genre picture that probably would have been superiorly crafted in the 1980s.