It’s hard to hate Hotel Artemis — but it’s potentially harder to not hate Hotel Artemis. It’s far from the worst movie I’ve seen this year, or even this month, but it is potentially the film that has squandered the most potential the most egregiously. Writer/director Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) takes a top-notch — if low-budget — ensemble cast, an intriguing premise and a visually interesting setting and somehow manages to turn out little more than a grindhouse cheapie that lacks the dubious charm such a designation would suggest. All of which leads us to the biggest mystery involved in Hotel Artemis: What the hell is Jodie Foster doing in this movie?
As an actor, Foster has only accepted roles in a dozen or so pictures over the last 20 years, most small walk-ons or supporting turns in films she either produced or directed. So what was it about Artemis that lured this Oscar winner to her first lead role in decades? Having sat through this movie, I can definitively say that it wasn’t Pearce’s script, which is awkwardly paced and sports some of the most ridiculous dialogue I’ve heard in ages. It can’t be her character, a grizzled nurse with a trite back story whose motivation for running a secret hospital catering to elite criminals is only tenuously established. And it certainly can’t be Pearce himself, whose visual style here can best be described as “sleaze deco.”
So maybe she’s just in it for the paycheck — except that doesn’t make sense either, because the likelihood of Artemis making any significant money was a long shot in the first place. Was she just excited to work with Charlie Day? Or Dave Bautista? They’re both pretty good, but that doesn’t sound like much of a draw for an actress of Foster’s caliber. Sterling K. Brown, I get — he’s a B-lister who gets to function as the erstwhile protagonist of the piece in absence of any clear villain — but Foster? Her character only gets to hobble around with a funny, halting gait while she clucks about “the rules” like a mafiosa mother hen to a bunch of upscale reprobates, including a particularly underutilized and miscast Jeff Goldblum.
So what’s the point of Hotel Artemis? Is it even trying to make one? I honestly can’t say. There’s some subtext about water privatization and wealth inequality, and Sofia Boutella gets to have some fun slicing and dicing her way through a few dozen anonymous goons, but to what end? By the time Pearce’s film reaches it’s third-act climax, the plot points have long since become perfunctory and the character turns almost comedically formulaic. There’s a sense of catharsis, not so much from the narrative itself, but from the fact that it’s come to an end in a mercifully brisk 97 minutes. That’s not to say that it’s a terrible movie, just an inexplicably deficient one that feels like a truly missed opportunity. Rated R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references, and brief drug use.
Now Playing at AMC Classic River Hills 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.