The fundamental choice that has to be made when making a film is whether to play it ambitious or to play it safe. It’s the equivalent of go hard or go home. Do you follow the formula, rehash something seen many times before, or make something different and new? Hotel Artemis is definitely an example of a film made with ambition. It doesn’t necessarily work, at times it descends into farce, but for the most part it’s a really enjoyable and pacy 90 minute movie full of ambition. Made on a deceptively small budget – $15 million dollars (for a frame of reference – Sicario 2 cost $45m, Skyscraper cost around $125m to make and Jurassic World 2 cost at least $170m) it’s the kind of fun thriller they don’t make all that often.
In riot-torn, near-future Los Angeles, the Nurse (Jodie Foster) goes about her working day in at Hotel Artemis in an alcohol-induced daze. Members of the hotel, Los Angeles elite criminal sect, check in for a stay to have their array of injuries treated. To be a member and stay a member there’s some clear rules that must be followed. Everest the orderly (Dave Bautisa) is there to make sure that happens. When a bank robbery goes wrong the recently-out-of-retirement Waikki (Sterling K.Brown) arrives with his badly injured brother (Brian Tyree Henry). The problem is both the LAPD and LA’s number one criminal VIP (Jeff Goldblum) aren’t that far behind him…
What’s truly admirable about Hotel Artemis is its scope. For a movie with a small budget it has huge ambition which it mostly pulls off. Writer-director has managed to create a relatively fully-fleshed out and fully realised world in which all manner of interesting characters reside. Foster is a scene-stealer – a real joy to watch – as the Nurse with all manner of secrets. Brown is Mr.Cool, suave and ever-watching as the criminal you can’t help but root for. Day is wonderfully sleazy as the arms dealer you love to hate. Boutella continues her reign as supporting cast member bombshell who is more badass than all the male members of her side put together. Bautista seems to have perfected the role of hulking mass which hides a heart of gold and a predilection for deadpan humour.
Goldblum, of course, is BAE.
Although there are some plot points that cross the boundary into ridiculousness; although some of the dialogue is less funny and more total cringe; although it all descends into stupendous action sequences – it somehow works and becomes a film you can’t help but enjoy. The main concept, a hotel for which criminals can reside for all manner of stays, is slightly reminiscent of the Continental Hotel from John Wick. Such similarities are quickly forgotten in favour of exploring the intricacies of such an arrangement in more detail along with the various dynamics within the criminal sector.
The end result is a film that feels rather brave, slightly fresh and all-manner of fun. If I could, I’d sign the guestbook promising to make a return visit!
Dir: Drew Pearce
Scr: Drew Pearce
Cast: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista.
Prd: Adam Siegel, Marc Platt, Stephen Cornwell, Simon Cornwell.
DOP: Chung Chung-hoon
Music: Cliff Martinez
Runtime: 94 mins
Hotel Artemis is in UK cinemas from July 20th.