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Hotel Artemis review - a slick and stylish thriller

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Verdict: a slick and stylish thriller, perfect for fans of the genre

The easiest way to explain the premise of Hotel Artemis is to say that it’s basically set in the hotel from John Wick — where criminals can lay low and receive medical attention, and the list of rules includes no killing the other patients.

Set in a slightly futuristic LA where water has been privatised and riots rock the streets, the eclectic group of criminals and healthcare professionals that find themselves in Hotel Artemis use laser tech and advanced 3D printing to both hurt and heal.

The lavish but bloodstained hotel, with its flickering neon sign, secret passageways, almost comical security levels, and rickety service elevators is a brilliantly constructed atmospheric setting for the drama — undoubtedly a character in itself. Representing a haven for some and a place full of hidden dangers for others, with the chaos of the outside world shown to us only in brief snatches, the hotel provides the structure for the film to unfold upon.

The strict rules of the world and the hotel are presented to the audience early on and established as unbreakable, allowing us to get to know the eccentric characters within a clearly defined set of boundaries. The legendary Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther) plays the sensible brother to Brian Tyree Henry’s hothead, the two taking advantage of the water riots to rob a bank. Things take a turn for the worse, resulting in them seeking out Hotel Artemis to recover from their wounds.

Jodie Foster is a triumph as the matriarch of the hotel - the Nurse, whose trotting walk and old-fashioned medical bag seem anachronistic in this futuristic world. She brings a brilliant complexity to this character, who is riddled with anxiety and agoraphobia, alongside a grief that drives her dedication to her work. A walkman that she switches between sweeping classical music and anxiety self-help tapes immerse the audience into her world-view in a fantastically effective way.

Other clients include the horrendously abrasive republican arms dealer, code-name Acapulco, played by Charlie Day. His usual high-energy, crazy-eyed roles (Pacific Rim, It’s Always Sunny) are escalated to truly love-to-hateable levels in this vile, misogynistic, racist, war-profiteering, capitalist arms dealer figure that represents everything wrong with America in on neat Charlie Day shaped package.

His banter with Sofia Boutella’s femme fatale Nice is equal parts hilarious and horrifying. Again in a role similar to her past ones (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Atomic Blonde), Boutella is effortlessly sensual and deadly. Her incredibly gymnastic and brutal fight scenes never fail to amaze in any film, and Hotel Artemis is no exception. Though the cliched romance between Boutella and Brown’s characters doesn’t hold as much weight as perhaps its meant to, it’s through no fault of theirs. 

The main flaw of this film is in the script, and its reliance on stock characters and stereotypes. Jeff Goldblum is the enigmatic mob boss The Wolf King, and Zachary Quinto is his embarrassingly intense youngest son who’s constantly trying (too hard) to earn his approval. The characters are more caricatures, and their relationship is almost textbook. While the entertainment it provides is undeniable, the predicability of it all leaves something to be desired. 

A subplot regarding the Nurse’s backstory again is predictable from the first instance, because the clues planted early on in the film are so obvious that the reveal is almost meaningless. It’s a shame, because, had it come as a shock, it would have been a brilliant one.

Jenny Slate tones down her trademark brash humour to give a sensitive and real performance as mysterious cop Morgan, and Dave Bautista is basically Drax without the facepaint — huge and hilariously literal. 

The typecasting of the cast speaks again to the script’s unwillingness to develop the characters on screen — it relies on associations that the audience already have with these faces. Sterling Brown as a trustworthy protagonist, Brian Tyree Henry as a gangster (Atlanta), Sofia Boutella as a sexy assassin … the list goes on. On the one hand, it could be considered perfect casting, and a clever technique that allows more screen-time for actual plot developments, but the what does make it to screen doesn’t quite live up to that.

Complaints aside it’s a brilliantly fun and stylish thriller, with more time spent on set up than follow through. It’s a slow moving, almost quiet film for the first half, but when the shit hits the fan, it really hits the fan. The pace rockets up from zero to sixty faster than you can blink, and the action really can’t be faulted. Certainly a fun watch for lovers of the genre.

Hotel Artemis arrives in UK cinemas on July 20th, distributed by Warner Bros.

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