Written by Drew Pierce for whom this is the directorial debut, Hotel Artemis is an exploration of what happens when a society is pushed too far but also how sometimes the bad guys are not necessarily the worst in the situation. The film acts as a hybrid character study and action film. Some of the characters like The Nurse and Waikiki have a bit more background and others like Everest and Nice are more mysterious, offering some nice surprises along the way. The characters are given the time to interact, to show the relationship to each other, thus giving them stakes in the story once the action is interesting and well-shot. One particular sequence, a battle in a hallway, is great, its use of the small space and one character’s capacity are fantastic. The way things transpire and are shot make for an interesting action-thriller-drama.
The cast of Hotel Artemis is led by Jodie Foster as The Nurse and Sterling K. Brown as Waikiki, both of them do interesting work. Jodie Foster gives The Nurse an air of mystery and vulnerability at the same time making the viewer wonder how she ended up at the hotel. Sterling K. Brown plays his character as an assured man, a criminal with confidence, but also a man with his vulnerabilities, like The Nurse, that cause him trouble. His performance is strong, giving his character personality and a will to fight. In the support cast, Dave Bautista as Everest and Sofia Boutella as Nice shine in their respective parts. Bautista plays a man who follows and enforces the rules, while caring more than he might show about the patients and his boss. Bautista uses his imposing presence well here and also his acting skills to create a character who is more than a very large man, more than the hotel’s muscle. Boutella, for her part, plays her character as a woman hiding something, confidently gliding through a primarily man’s world and being all kinds of badass while doing so. Her fighting skills are fun to watch and the film makes it so that it’s hard to tell is she or a stunt double are doing the majority of the fighting. In a couple of smaller parts, playing father and son, Jeff Goldblum and Zachary Quinto play two men with a giant thirst for power. Goldblum as the Wolfking, also referred to as Niagara, is very Goldblum-like as in he grabs the attention and doesn’t let it go every time he is on screen. Quinto goes a smarmier route so his character feels more annoying, desperate almost. Lastly, Charlie Day as Acapulco comes off intolerable and as one of those people viewers want to see get their comeuppance. All these performances, and a few others, create a performance-based, character-driven ensemble action film.
Hotel Artemis has a very specific, deliberately designed look. The hotel itself, once inside, has a retro-cozy vibe, it’s appealing, it’s warm, it makes sense that people would go get medical assistance there. The art direction by Samantha Avila and Jonathan Carlos paired with the set decoration by Rosemary Brandenburg create this world inside the hotel and that is almost in complete opposition to the world outside of it. Together they create each room, each area of the hotel, giving each a great attention to detail and creating a retro-futuristic aesthetic that works perfectly for the story while lulling the viewer into a sense of familiar comfort.
These décors and the performances are showcased by cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung who gives each scene careful framing and whose work paired with the editing by Gardner Gould and Paul Zucker helps the aforementioned hallway battle be so cool by truly showing what is going on and still making it feel really dynamic. Their work shows how action scenes can be effectively shot without resorting to shaky cam and too many quick cuts.
Hotel Artemis is a dark action thriller that pays great attention to details and décors. The film takes the time to establish characters in a near-future, almost-apocalyptic setting, while creating a good level of mystery about each of them. The goal here is clear for all of them, it’s how they’ll get there that makes the film entertaining to watch Hotel Artemis is one of those films that is well-crafted on all levels, from the acting to the décors to the fight sequences to the way its shot to everything else. It’s highly entertaining and shows great talent from all involved.