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The summer is still the time that we go to the movies for the biggest and brightest and most polished experiences that we can get on screen. However, sometimes there's a gem to be found in a movie that's dark, dirty, and grimy as hell. This season, that movie looks to be Hotel Artemis. This is not a four-star resort. Hotel Artemis is not a place for the squeamish, but if you're in the mood for a tense crime thriller, you may want to check in.
It's 2028 and the future has turned into a John Carpenter movie. Corporations own everything and people struggle to get by, so when the company that owns all of the water in Los Angeles decides to turn off the pipe, people riot. Two brothers (Sterling K. Brown and Bryan Tyree Henry) take the opportunity of the unrest to rob a bank, but their escape isn't clean and both get away injured, one quite seriously. The pair makes their way to the Hotel Artemis, a hospital that caters to the underworld, as long as your membership dues are current. There we meet Nurse (Jodie Foster) who runs the hotel and patches everybody up, hired muscle Everest (Dave Bautista), and the other patients healing up, including a professional assassin (Sofia Boutella) and an arms dealer (Charlie Day). Everybody should be safe at the Hotel Artemis because not killing each other is one of the rules everybody agrees to, but somebody has plans to break the rules.
Hotel Artemis takes a page from the John Wick book of world-building, in that it creates everything it needs to for its story, while also implying a great deal more, and letting your imagination fill in the holes. It's an effective strategy because we join the story in the middle. The Hotel Artemis has been around for decades and several characters have previous relationships, but the movie doesn't dwell on any of it. You get what you need and then the story moves on. Some characters get explanations but most just get references. It works well enough because ultimately all the characters are really just cogs in the machine of the plot. Hotel Artemis isn't about who they are, it's about what they're going to do.
What they're going to do is build slowly toward an inevitable explosion. Everybody in the hotel has an objective, and when it becomes clear those objectives are going to come in conflict with each other, there's nothing to do but sit back and watch.
Jodie Foster is obviously the most surprising name on the cast list, which is clearly by design. She feels a bit out of place, because she is. She's certainly not a moral hero, nobody in her position as chief surgeon to criminals would be, but neither is she completely without compassion. Foster is the one that carries the film. She's the only one we get any significant degree of backstory on, which makes the audience relate mostly with her, which makes sense since she's just about the only character in the film who isn't a hardened killer.
Dave Bautista continues to show why he's one of the more entertaining supporting actors currently in Hollywood. Sterling K. Brown is perfect as the man who just wants out of this life. Also, Jeff Goldblum shows up to play Jeff Goldblum for a bit. Interestingly, in a movie that feels like it gives license to be a little over the top, Goldblum feels more reserved than usual.
Hotel Artemis is a small movie. 90% of it takes place in one location. The cast list starts small and ends smaller. It's also not particularly long. At just a hair over 90 minutes in length, it doesn't try to do too much, which is probably why it succeeds as well as it does. It knows pretty well where its limits are. If you start to look closer you begin to notice characters behaving in ways that don't make a great deal of sense. And that's on top of the characters who, while maybe not strictly unnecessary, certainly feel underused. However, it's much more likely that you'll be wrapped up in the story by then and won't really notice.
It's clear from the style of world-building as well as some clever end of the credits text, that Hotel Artemis is at least somewhat interested in building more on this world it creates. If a sequel comes along it will certainly be worth checking out. If not, then Hotel Artemis stands well on its own, and that's enough.