Reviewed by: Ryan McLelland

From the second the Hotel Artemis trailer ended I knew it was a movie I wanted to see in theaters.  A hospital just for bad guys that no one knows about run by Jodie Foster with help from Dave Bautista?  Then there’s something smuggled into the Hotel Artemis which causes a big massive breaking of the “Hotel Artemis rules” and all out war breaks out inside?  The trailer completely sold it for me and the cast, which includes Jeff Goldblum, Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, and Sterling K. Brown, just made me want to see this film even more.

The trailer sold Hotel Artemis like a futuristic John Wick Continentalesque hospital with a mass of killers inside needing to defend themselves against a huge outside force.  The result is a great trailer and a not-so-great film.  A gang of guys do end up coming in at the end, but by then I was already pretty damn bored with this boring film.  YAWN.

The big problem I found with the film wasn’t the setting, wasn’t the not-so-greatly established Hotel Artemis rules, not the cast, nor the direction.  But that direction comes from director Drew Pearce who also wrote the screenplay.  The problem is the screenplay feels like it is half done.  Like there are some really great, brilliant ideas there but the studio greenlit the very first draft of Hotel Artemis and they just launched into pre-production.  I’m sure that’s not the case but that’s how this film FEELS.  After seeing the film I separated the amazing trailer from the boring movie.  It isn’t marketing’s fault that they were able to sell this film to me so easily.  It didn’t work with anyone else as the film bombed at theaters this past weekend.  The fact that a small sci-fi film like this can be released during the summer against films like Solo and Ocean’s Eight should be a testament to the support of Global Road Entertainment.  They aren’t going to make their $15 million budget back, but they got a small movie out there during the summer.  Good for you.  That’s wasn’t sarcasm.  I think the move was quite ballsy.  The counter programming didn’t work, but at least they tried.

Jodie Foster stars as The Nurse who has worked in the Hotel Artemis for some 30 years or so.  She is joined by Everest (Dave Bautista) who is an orderly as well as an enforcer within the hospital.  The rules of Artemis are quite simple sorta: no fighting inside the hospital, no killing each other, no weapons allowed inside, you must be a member to gain access to the hospital, and a bunch more (as shown on very briefly onscreen) that Pearce doesn’t bother to tell us.  That’s fine – as long as we have the gist I’m good to go.

After a botched robbery, a man and his brother show up to the Artemis with a third man.  The man and his brother are up to date with their dues and are let in.  The third man is not a member and even though he is a bad guy who is bleeding from a gunshot to the neck, he is sent away.  The two men are given a room.  Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) needs to get his brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) fixed up as quickly as possible.  During their botched bank robbery they had stolen something from The Wolf King – a crime lord who basically rules Los Angeles.  Stealing from The Wolf King means death.  The longer they stay in the Hotel Artemis, the more chances they’ll be found and killed for what they’ve done.

There’s two other guests already there: Acapulco (Charlie Day) who is a whiny arms dealer and Nice (like Nice, France), played by Sofia Boutella, who is a master assassin.

Now the players are all set and the film started to bore the shit out of me.  At one point a cop shows up at the Hotel Artemis (Jenny Slate) and it is also against the rules to bring a cop in.  The Nurse brings her in anyway, breaking the rules of the establishment she runs.  Acapulco’s character is a waste and Nice is there to complete a mission though how she sets up the mission to be completed is never explained.  Thusly is just seems really convenient once the film is done.  It also seems that Waikiki and Nice have a romantic past which isn’t really explained but that is basically the entire movie.  It sets up things, doesn’t bother explaining anything, and expects you to just follow along without questioning anything.

The problem is when you build a science fiction world in a neo-noir crime film where water is scarce thanks to corporations and the world is ruled by a crime lord, it helps to establish the rules of this universe.  It helps to have some sort of background on the characters.  We are given none.  Exposition is basically zilch.  It basically “is what it is” and thusly just really slowed down the film.  Well that and the fact that nothing much really happens at all until the third act when a wounded Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) arrives for treatment, with his son (Zachary Quinto) and crew in tow.  I don’t want to ruin anything about the plot here but there are two plot lines left dangling that should have easily tied together that weren’t even bothered to be tied together.   Another plot line then ties into this plot line but it is never explained how it is accomplished.  It just…made my mind hurt.

It was very hard for me to finish this film.  I almost walked out several times because I really was that fucking bored.  The performances seemed very subdued and Jodie Foster, who doesn’t act that much these days, was actually quite horrible as The Nurse.  I don’t think Jodie’s been in a good film since 2007’s The Brave One but this may be the worst performance in the past ten years if not her career.

I will say that I really enjoyed Dave Bautista’s performance and I’m getting quite used to him being an actor.  While I’m not the biggest fan of how his Marvel character Drax has turned out, I’m quite happy with his performance here and from last year’s Blade Runner 2049.  When I see his name attached to a film I will be excited to see it.

Direction-wise, Pearce did a great job for his directorial debut but it is severely hampered by his own screenplay.  How this screenplay then landed all these amazing actors is beyond me, especially for such a small budgeted film.  But, in the end, this is a film that I cannot recommend seeing unless you really love slow, not well written, dystopian sci-fi films.  It’s a wonderful premise executed quite poorly with no chance of a bigger follow-up sequel thanks to its very meager box office.

RATING: D+

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