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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jun 25, 2018

Hotel Artemis Movie Review: Swiftly Paced Action Drama About A Fictitious Hotel For Criminals With Jodie Foster In A Meaty Comeback Role As The Nurse

IF YOU’D SEEN ‘John Wick’, there’s a hotel called The Continental exclusively for criminals where Keanu Reeves seek refuge from his enemies. The action-thriller, “Hotel Artemis”, seems to have been inspired by that hotel. It is a sanctuary in a Los Angeles torn apart by crime and run by the Nurse (Jodie Foster) who attends to thugs needing emergency care. But first, they have to be bonafide members who are properly identified though the implanted chips on their wrist.

This is set in the not too distant future during a catastrophic water crisis in the city where a greedy corporation called Clearwater owns L.A.’s water supply and holds the drought-stricken city in its control. Naturally, people fight back and riots become rampant. So it is a busy night for the hotel as the Nurse welcome two members needing treatment for gunshot wounds after a botched bank robbery. This is Sherman (Sterling K. Brown) and his badly wounded younger brother, Lev (Brian Tyree Henry), and it’s good they’re members of this exclusive hotel for misfits.

Strict rules are followed in the hotel and non-members are not accepted. It’s the Nurse’s assistant, Everest (Dave Bautista), who makes sure of this and he has the habit of pointing to his name tag to show that he is a health care professional. The movie actually focuses more on the Nurse and a deglamorized Jody Foster totally inhabits this enigmatic character. She has managed the hotel for 22 years and has not gone outside for a long time.

She personally attends to the wounded Lev whose liver got damaged. He points to Sherman the needle marks in Lev’s fingers and he is disappointed to discover that his brother is still using drugs. The Nurse then gets a call from the persistent Crosby (Zachary Quinto), who happens to be the son of her boss known as the Wolf King, the city’s top gangster. Crosby wants a room for his wounded dad.

The Nurse seems to be so strict but she breaks the rules when she sees a young female cop (Jenny Slate) on the hotel’s security camera. She’s wounded and wants to seek the hotel’s help. The Nurse happens to know the policewoman, Morgan, who knows her real name, Mrs. Thomas. So she bends the rules in this case, surprising Everest.

In flashbacks, we see a boy under a pier on a beach, actually the Nurse’s son who died many years ago because of drug overdose. It is revealed that the Nurse as Mrs. Thomas is actually a kind woman who now hides behind a battered but tough exterior.

The way Jodie Foster slowly strips away her character’s layer of protective artifice is touching but still, as a comeback project after five years of absence on the big screen, you’d be curious as to why she chose this as her return vehicle. We can’t get over the fact that we first saw her as a child star in “Taxi Driver” with Robert de Niro, playing a child hooker and later in her Oscar winning performances in “The Accused” and “Silence of the Lambs”. Now, she looks like a grandma.

The arrival of a crime lord, Orian Franklin (Jeff Goldblum) helps bring her past into focus but it doesn’t seem enough motivation for the actions she takes on that crucial night. Another member criminal plays a vital role in the film is the sexy Nice (Sofia Boutella), also a patient for a bullet wound but actually, she just shot her own self to get in as she has another objective in the hotel.

A very demanding patient is Mr. Acapulco (Charlie Day), an arms dealer who wants protection from all the violent events happening outside the hotel, which in itself is a veritable den of criminals. But can the high level security provided by the hotel protect all its patients from the riots that threaten their safety? The movie can be interpreted as an allegory for the current political situation in the U.S. (and even ours) where the government breaks a lot of rules that just might lead to a systematic collapse.

The production design is quite grimy but the hotel itself brings to mind some old art-deco buildings that seem to be relics of a more glorious past. Also noteworthy is the movie’s soundtrack that comes from the Nurse’s portable tape player that carries of a collection of 1970s California music including “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas.

The film is written and directed by first timer Drew Pearce who gives us flashy action sequences that seem to have been inspired by Tarantino. It has some great scenes like the one were Sofia Boutella dares fight a group of baddies all be herself in a narrow corridor as all hell breaks loose inside the hotel. Sofia is definitely a big asset for the movie (just like in “Kingsman” and “Atomic Blonde” with Charlize Theron) as she gives a very physical performance that triggers the plot device which brings the film to its action-packed climax where all the hotel’s rules are broken. Also giving great support is Dave Bautista as Foster’s very loyal orderly.

But the film itself is not actually that involving. Although swiftly paced at only an hour and a half, the nurse is the only one given with an interesting back story as a hardened character with an emotional baggage about her son. The other characters lack adequate character development and background details of the situations, which are filmed in just one location, are actually sparse. Actually, the more absorbing characters are Sherman and Nice, who both manage to survive the violent night, but they are not fully fleshed out.