Hotel Artemis is brimming with ideas that never quite congeal

By Leigh Monson

   Hotel Artemis feels like a film that should come together as something much more engaging and interesting than it is.
   It's a stylistically realized vision of a near future that plays off present issues inflated to dystopian proportions, and it has a unique retro-futuristic aesthetic that combines the mid-twentieth century height of hotel décor with the plausible advancements in technology we might see in the next decade. But for as much as the setting and production design work well, there's a bit too much happening under the hood to fully capitalize on the promise inherent in Hotel Artemis.
   In the year 2028, the titular hotel stands in the middle of a growing LA riot, where the citizens of the city are fighting against the capitalistic allocation of drinkable water to the wealthiest individuals. However, the Hotel Artemis isn't so much an actual hotel as it is a hospital, an off-the-grid place for members of the criminal underworld to lay low and recover from their life-threatening injuries. As the city crumbles around the Hotel, the Nurse (Jodie Foster) who runs the place must deal with her multitude of patients as the proprietor of the establishment makes his way for treatment she just doesn't have the room or time to accommodate.
   There's a lot of thematic juggling going on in this premise, from the pay-to-live nature of American healthcare to the militarization of police to the reduction of natural resources acting as the impetus for class warfare. This is a well-conceived world that acts a plausible, if highly stylized, vision of where American society might be headed, and there's a pervasive feeling that the world of Hotel Artemis is thought out enough that this could have spawned numerous sequels, each exploring a different facet of the setting and offering blistering commentary on how our present is falling apart before us.
   It feels like such a waste then that all of writer-director Drew Pierce's ideas seem to have been dumped into one screenplay. You may have noticed that I didn't get into the particulars of what happens during this crazy night, and that's because the plot of Hotel Artemis is a mess of subplots with too many characters and not enough characterization. There are thefts, assassinations, chaotic breakdowns of established rules, and general buffoonery all competing for screen time in the film's modest ninety minutes. While the tangled intricacies do sort themselves out by the time the credits roll, the resulting experience feels spread over a wide area but spread too thin to leave much impact. And it's a shame, too, because this world is populated by great performances from Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, and Jeff Goldblum, and to watch that much talent have such insufficient room to breathe is disappointing.
   There's enough engaging world-building in Hotel Artemis to justify the price of admission, even if the action in this supposed action film is limited to the end of the third act, admittedly in pretty spectacular fashion. It's a shallow experience built atop the potential for great depths, and it's disheartening to think that any one of the shallower experiences in the plot could have been developed into their own deeper, more enriching film. But wasted potential isn't the sign of a bad film, merely a disappointing one.

3/5 stars
Leigh Monson is technically a licensed attorney but somehow thinks being a film critic is a lot more fun. Leigh loves both award darlings and hilariously bad films, does not believe in superhero movie fatigue, and calls it like he sees it.