Somewhere between John Wick and John Carpenter, the Hotel Artemis is open for business. Marking writer Drew Pearce’s (Iron Man 3, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) first attempt at directing, the film takes us on a tour of an exclusive haven for criminals that is struggling to stay up to code after an array of visitors wander in all battered and bruised from a futuristic world torn apart by way of an L.A. riot.
For his first effort, Pearce keeps things small, giving you a cast you can count on one hand but can’t remember the names of. Signed in at the top of the guest list is Sterling K. Brown as the con who was out but is now back in, thanks to his no-good brother and the perfect job that’s gone wrong. With his beloved sibling on a stretcher, the rest of his tale is spent chewing the undercooked fat with Sofia Boutella’s lethal assassin who is set on breaking the Artemis’ top rule of no violence, and Charlie Day as the weasely arms dealer on helium that manages to piss off everyone he meets.
Comparisons of The Continental – the private hotel harbouring Keanu Reeves ultra-cool hitman – are inevitable. Just as stylish and with an air of mystery, the Artemis instead has a slightly worn down aesthetic not too dissimilar to Escape from New York, and a perfect match with its oldest employee Nurse Thomas, played by Jodie Foster. Shuffling through the halls and tending to her latest bookings, she’s without question the most influential player in the game. A frayed Florence Nightingale with her own wounds that have yet to heal, Foster slips into the role of one who’s seen it all wonderfully, standing as the character in the film you’ll get easily attached to.
A close second is her healthcare professional handyman Everest played by Dave Bautista, who, while still not as deadpan as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy, engulfs the halls off this seedy hotel with a presence that is unavoidable – mainly because he takes up more than half the frame. These two are the saving graces of Pearce’s debut. Seeing this seasoned bond between the slightly-soured nurse and her towering go-to-guy is a highlight and where the attention could’ve leaned towards rather than the guests themselves, who fail to reach the same level.
Sterling K. Brown is undeniably packing a charm and charisma that is bigger than his character. Acting as our gateway to the Artemis from the off, the brains of the heist feels like he should be smarter than he is, observing all the machinations of the Artemis system and not taking advantage to work in his favour. He’s a leading presence waiting to break out, just not in this film.
The same goes for Sofia Boutella, who is slowly etching forward from her roles as high-kicking henchwoman of Kingsman and showing up with so-so appearances in Atomic Blonde and (love it or hate it) The Mummy. Here she’s another lethal lady that with an agenda, clashing with Charlie Day but not earning the supremacy of every situation she walks in and out of. It’s only in the films final ass-kicking act that she gets her time to shine and reminds everyone that she should be tearing up her own action franchise by now.
These are all surprisingly disappointing elements that suggest Pearce may have spread himself a little thin with a film that he both wrote and directed. The premise while brilliant isn’t as strong as it could be and the same can be said for the characters that inhabit it. They’re chess pieces moving around for the quickest and simplest possible route that will help reach the endgame, from the tolerable to the downright lazy, and it’s only with the input of Foster and Bautista that your stay at Hotel Artemis is a pleasant one.