Hotel Artemis is a film of almosts. It almost belies its meagre $14m budget. It almost has something to say about contemporary America. It almost puts an interesting sci-fi spin on a classic crime caper. It’s almost good.
It begins with a paint-by-numbers bank heist gone awry, although this is soon revealed to be little more than a device to get the main players to the eponymous hotel. Only it isn’t a hotel at all, but a private-members’-club-cum-hospital for criminals, and a place to escape the perpetual riots taking place across LA. It’s run by Jodie Foster’s The Nurse, who’s renowned for her ability to patch-up even the most extravagantly smooshed of bad guys, despite subsiding on little more than bourbon and anxious energy.
Several overlapping stories converge – none of them particularly memorable – leading to an underwhelming battle royale between the quasi-superpowered guests.
It sounds, looks and feels like fan-fiction set in the John Wick universe, with the concept of a shadowy secret society where super-villains can relax without the threat of violence serving as an exceptionally on-the-nose tribute to that film’s Continental Hotel. It also shares John Wick’s mistrust of dialogue, with its characters speaking exclusively in soundbites and clichés, which makes you wish they’d just stop talking altogether.
For a film with such a small budget, it boasts an enviable cast, with Foster joined by Jeff Goldblum, Sterling K Brown, Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day and Dave Bautista, each one competing to chew the biggest chunks from the prettily-lit scenery (Goldblum, of course, wins).
Nobody involved is blessed with more than two dimensions, the assorted arms-dealers, assassins and bank-robbers all just there to fill the lovingly crafted environment. And the Artemis is a beautiful place, a crumbling art deco, cyber-punk haven, each room daubed in fading murals of famous tourist destinations: Honolulu, Niagara, Acapulco.
There are also a handful of sci-fi flourishes to remind you that this is taking place in a future dystopia, with retro-futuristic 3D-printers churning out fresh organs and lots of Blade Runner-style holograms. The political backdrop, involving a world suffering from Mad Max: Fury Road-style water shortages thanks to malign corporate practices, suggests debut director Drew Pearce thought about saying something relevant but then chickened out.
It’s all super-stylish and reasonably good fun, but it lacks either the action nous of John Wick or the tightly coiled B-movie energy of something like 2012’s Dredd. It disappoints all the more for the suspicion that there’s an alternate reality version of this film that’s an overnight cult classic.