By: Trevor Chartrand
It’s refreshing to see original scripts can still make their way to the big screen! Between the endless tirade of superhero movies, novel adaptations, sequels, remakes, and reboots, it’s rare to see something that’s actually fresh. Films aren’t often greenlit without a built-in fanbase – and even when they are, they rarely rise above mediocrity. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with Drew Pearce’s Hotel Artemis. The film isn’t going to revolutionize cinema or win any awards, but the mere fact that it got made is something that deserves to be celebrated. Most importantly though, it’s a fun movie to watch.
The film features a boiling pot full of explosive characters, all forced together in one confined space. The result is an edge-of-your-seat, ticking time bomb of a movie. Set among riots in a near-future Los Angeles, a group of failed bank robbers take shelter in a hotel that exclusively hosts career criminals. Trapped inside with the scum of the city, the hotel is managed by an eccentric, yet compassionate doctor who provides medical service for the world’s most wanted. The claustrophobia of being bottled in with these creeps creates a high-stakes drama-machine that just won’t quit. With the wrong script, a film with this many main characters could easily have been a convoluted mess, but writer/director Pearce handles each element with calculated craft, effectively telling an evenly-paced and original story.
A serious movie with some grim world-building, Hotel Artemis isn’t afraid to be funny either. Like any good action movie, there are small comedic moments scattered throughout the film. The jokes never feel forced or go overboard though, unlike bloated Marvel movies that tend to be over-stuffed with quips.
Hotel Artemis’ strength is its script and characters, portrayed by a brilliantly balanced ensemble cast. Jodie Foster shines as ‘The Nurse,’ carrying the picture with wit, charisma and, well, a unique hobbling walk. She defines the character with every step she takes – her anxiety, her efficiency, everything comes down to the way the character moves, and it’s a delight to watch. Foster is backed up with an impressive supporting cast, including a beard-less, foul-mouthed Charlie Day, the would-be bank robber Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella’s exotic assassin, Marvel’s Drax (Dave Bautista) as an orphaned bodyguard / hospital orderly and, of course, an unforgettable special appearance by Jeff Goldblum.
The cinematography in Hotel Artemis is fluid and flowing, marrying the energy of the actors with the pace of the plot. Littered with vivid art direction and sets, the run-down hotel is a character of its own. Most of the film is spent in the Artemis, a grimy reminder of a more vibrant time. The only thing that appears clean or maintained is the medical technology The Nurse uses, in all its sterile and futuristic glory. There’s some really fun sci-fi concepts on display here, including a medical 3D printer capable of printing out functional organs.
The film’s soundtrack is often used to calm The Nurse down, as she listens to diegetic music to escape the chaos around her. The music choices are folksy and chill, revealing a softer side to the character and providing the audience with time to breathe. As The Nurse reflects on her life and her lost son midway through the film, the frame is lit and arranged as if it’s a painting – when combined with the soundtrack, the filmmakers effectively create a vivid, powerful moment. It’s more than anyone could ask for from an otherwise surface level action-thriller.
Hotel Artemis is a diamond among the Hollywood rough; an irresistibly fun thriller that doesn’t rely on brand recognition to succeed. Again, it’s encouraging to see well-made original content can still get made, especially in such a creatively-bankrupt studio climate. We definitely need to see more movies like Hotel Artemis.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor