Score: 2 stars ** out of 4 ****
Since winning her second Academy Award in 1991 for “The Silence of the Lambs,” Jodie Foster has appeared in 20 films; almost of them bad. “Hotel Artemis” marks her first role in a movie since “Elysium” from 2013 and for a multitude of reasons, it’s difficult to fathom why Foster chose this particular film to break her longest career radio-silence streak.
Either wearing no make-up at all or a whole bunch of it, Foster looks every day of her 55 years while playing Jean Thomas, the nurse, caretaker and pseudo-enforcer/warden of a Los Angeles based off-the-grid hospital posing as a hotel. Thomas only treats injured, high-paying criminals who can’t seek help at legitimate health care outlets and this supposed clandestine facility is anything but a secret.
Set in 2028, the movie’s finest achievement is in presenting what could actually be taking place in L.A. a decade from now with unchecked government regulations allowed to run amuck in tandem with water shortages, failing law enforcement, overrun sanctuary cities and laughable healthcare guidelines.
The movie opens on a night that could easily double for one taking place in current day Iraq or Afghanistan. There are multiple riots, looting, bombs dropping, and skyscrapers collapsing. For reasons that make little sense, the Hotel Artemis — started in 2006 but sporting a decided early ‘60s design — never suffers a single structural scratch from outside forces. This is the first of many narrative oversights which turn a decently-conceived dystopian action thriller into a largely uninteresting B-grade bloodbath.
Due to alcoholism and a shattering life-altering event taking place years ago, Thomas lost her nurse’s license and could only find work patching up bad guys at the hotel owned by a crime boss played by Jeff Goldblum who is referred to by multiple aliases. The Goldblum character shows up late in the film needing treatment and — to his credit — forces his posse of bodyguards (led by Zachery Quinto as his ne’er-do-well youngest son) to adhere to the hotel’s short list of rules. Among these no-no’s include not killing other patients, not verbally abusing Thomas, never treating wounded police officers or packing heat beyond the gated hotel entry point.
On this particular night the guests/patients include Nice (pronounced “niece”) played with understated flair and panache by Algerian actress Sofia Boutella (“The Mummy,” “Atomic Blonde”) as a high-end assassin, the terribly miscast Charlie Day as the metro-sexual arms dealer “Acapulco,” and “Waikiki” (rising star Sterling K. Brown) a talented bank robber perpetually weighed down by an under-performing sibling.
Things go from just so-so to mildly interesting at the start of the second act when Thomas decides she has to break one of the house rules, much to the chagrin of “Everest” (Dave Bautista, “Guardians of the Galaxy”), her sole, very-dedicated orderly who comes with a promising yet only hinted-at back story. Once Goldblum’s character shows up in the flesh, the iffy narrative starts tail spinning yet, thanks to stand-out turns from Boutella and Brown, the movie barely avoids catching fire and completely nose-diving.
Everything that is wrong with “Hotel Artemis” needs to be laid squarely at the feet of first time writer/director Drew Pearce, the scribe of “Iron Man 3,” perhaps the worst of all Marvel movies to date. Shooting a movie taking place exclusively at night and/or indoors requires special care and Pearce is in possession of none of these skills.
A good third of the nearly two hour running length takes place during power outages forcing the hotel to switch over to generator-power emergency lighting. Bathed in either off-magenta or dull-yellow, these stretches in theory provide grittier realism but in execution are putrid and off-putting. Another 15 minutes or so is seen through black and white closed circuit security monitors and televisions showing news clips which have the picture quality of a dish receiver set up in a forest during a snow blizzard.
If you want a far better movie also taking place indoors, at night (and often when raining) with almost the exact same premise and a practically identical set of house rules try “John Wick” instead. The outlaw hideaway in that film (with exteriors provided by New York’s sleek and historic Flatiron Building) not only offers up the finest in black market medical care, but also the most posh amenities dirty money can buy.
The next time Foster wants to come out of hiding she should do so with the type of movie that, by comparison, doesn’t makes John Carpenter flicks look like Merchant and Ivory period pieces. The only good thing for Foster appearing in “Hotel Artemis” is that it firmly lands her in “matronly” casting territory. Hopefully her choices of future material will be on a par with Helen Mirren and Judi Dench and not that of Jane Fonda or Diane Keaton.
Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national media outlets and is currently the only newspaper-based film critic providing original content in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace and he recently co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. Over the last two decades, Mr. Clark has written over 3,500 movie reviews and film related articles for the Gwinnett Daily Post and is one of the scant few conservative-minded U.S. critics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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