It’s rare that I come away from a movie wishing that there was more of it. The majority of movies could use trimming, so when one comes around that’s just about 90 minutes in length and feels like it could use another 20-30 minutes of running time, that’s the exception. Usually, these are movies that have interesting premises that don’t expand upon them as much as we’d like—usually for budget reasons more than anything else. Hotel Artemis is one such film. It has a solid idea behind it and is, overall, a lot of fun, but had it been given more time it could have been great.
The premise is this: In the near future, the world has descended into moderate chaos. There are lots of riots and corporations are even more evil than they are now, and it’s getting to the point where we’re nearing dystopian territory. In Los Angeles, which is where many things are at their worst, there’s a secret hotel/hospital which near-exclusively treats the criminal underworld—provided they pay a membership fee. That’s the titular Hotel Artemis, and it’s where the vast majority of the movie takes place.
The hotel is run by the Nurse (Jodie Foster). It has rules, like how patients have to surrender their weapons and how no violence can take place inside of it. It’s like a hospital version of The Continental in the John Wick movies. It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the screenplay for Hotel Artemis wasn’t written until John Wick was released. Anyway, the film deals with a few of the patients inside the hotel, all of whom have ulterior motives and back stories, which will all eventually clash in the finale.
So, it’s 2/3 build up, 1/3 go nuts. The relationships between the various characters, their interplay, the secrets they harbor and the way they set things up to pay off later—all of that is a lot of fun. But it feels a little shallow, like the film wanted to explore it more but wasn’t given the opportunity. A couple of subplots needed more exploration, a couple of characters feel lacking, and the whole project comes across as needing more. What we get is fun, but not enough.
That’s preferable to having too much tedium, though. Hotel Artemis is an adrenaline shot of a movie. It comes and goes so quickly thanks to its breakneck pacing and things constantly happening. It doesn’t have a ton of action scenes, but it does have a lot of action. We keep learning or seeing new things or getting introduced to new characters—it’s a lot to take in and see, and it doesn’t have much room to breathe. You’re not going to have a ton of time to question its rules or logistics; you’ll just sit back and enjoy the ride. And it’s a fun ride.
The actors are a large reason why. For whatever reason, Jodie Foster decided this would be her acting comeback project, and she spends a lot of the movie running around as the Nurse, as well as getting the most character depth. She’s assisted by Dave Bautista‘s Everest, who acts as her sous-nurse and bouncer. Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Josh Tillman, Kenneth Choi, and Jeff Goldblum all show up for varying amounts of screen time, and none of them are dull or unengaging. A couple of them definitely needed more time, though.
Hotel Artemis has a killer premise, a rapid-fire pace, a couple of solid action scenes, a lot of fun characters played by game actors … and it all feels a little underwhelming because nothing is explored as deeply as one could hope. It’s one of the rare movies that could have used more, not less, running time. What we get is still a good bit of fun, though. As a breezy dystopian crime movie that acts like an adrenaline shot, it’s pretty good.
Conclusion: Hotel Artemis is a fun ride—one that’s over too quickly and fails to fully capitalize on its premise and characters, but fun nonetheless.
Recommendation: I had enough fun with Hotel Artemis to recommend it if it sounds interesting to you.