I approached “Hotel Artemis” with an uneasy trepidation, born out of learning that it ran for a trim (these days) 96 minutes. My reasoning was simple: usually a high-concept star-powered action thriller that runs around the hour and a half mark is a sign of something going wrong and a desperate attempt to save the film in the editing suite. I needn’t have worried because if that is the case, I couldn’t see the joins. Drew Pearce’s feature film directorial debut is a lean, linear slice of action cinema with some terrific performances.
When a heist goes wrong and gets caught up in a Los Angeles riot in the not too distant future, Sherman (Sterling K Brown) and his brother (Brian Tyree Henry) are badly injured and in need of treatment. They rush to the Hotel Artemis, a secret hospital for criminals run by the Nurse (Jodie Foster) but not all of the current residents are content to play by the rules.
Given its trim running time and straightforward narrative, there’s something inescapably televisual about “Hotel Artemis” but I don’t mean that as a criticism. Pearce packs the screen with interesting visuals but the self-contained setting of the movie limits the scope for sweeping vistas. It’s more in the way the story is structured; it feels very much like a pilot for a TV show, teasingly introducing the world and its characters, giving them each defined arcs and developments which lend themselves to future adventures exploring the underworld of the future dystopia the hospital services.
Foster is reliably superb as the troubled Nurse at the heart of the action and Dave Batista gets a chance to show his abilities and personality in the role of ‘Healthcare Professional’ Everest, suggesting that the charisma-free and ultimately pointless turn as Mr Hinx in “SPECTRE” was very much the exception to the norm. Most of all, though, “Hotel Artemis” provides a welcome opportunity for Jeff Goldblum to actually act rather than just be Jeff Goldblum in a variety of costumes. It’s a reminder of how good he is when he strays outside (even if it’s not too far outside) of his usual schtick. Quinto may struggle to convince as the ‘hard man’ but Boutella, Brown and Charlie Day are good value too and the action is slick and well-choreographed.
Whether or not the story of “Hotel Artemis” continues or not, its an assured directorial debut for Pearce and will hopefully lead to bigger things. By comparing it to a TV pilot, I don’t mean to disparage or diminish it because if it were a pilot, it’s one for a show I would definitely want to watch.