This is one stylish mess. It’s got the noir notes, the off-kilter sensibilities, and a big muddled stew of a plot. Let me mull on this review a bit.
Movie Grade: C+
Alrighty. After due thought, I still think Hotel Artemis is trying for something it just didn’t reach. But I’ve got a sense it might grow into a minor cult favorite with time. The acting is very good (Jodie Foster never disappoints), the idea of a secret hospital for criminals in the near-future is intriguing, and the water riot is a great framing element. There’s a noir-ish Blade Runner sensibility to the endeavor. I liked seeing Dave Bautista in a new role, and he really did a bang up job, proving that his fun work in Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t a fluke. Jeff Goldblum plays the persona he’s marketed for himself with flair, but I wish he’d had more screentime.
Where this movie falls apart is in the sloppy narrative (there’s just not much story being told), and the relative lack of action in something being touted as as action film. Misleading trailers is a particular pet peeve with us at RunPee. (Rather than marketing something in a certain way just to get butts in the seats, wouldn’t it be nice to have the studios do service to their films by preparing audiences…ah, forget it. That’s probably never going to happen.)
Fine acting aside, the flashback scenes with Foster are unexpectedly weak. We saw the same sequence several times and didn’t get much payoff. Actually, most of the subplots didn’t work at all. I’m not sure backstory is necessary to this kind of experimental film. It’s the concept that’s most interesting, encapsulated in Foster’s great line that it’s “Just another Wednesday” at the Hotel Artemis…where every night is a slice of life (and death) from the criminal underbelly of the City of Angels.
I think if people go into this with a sort of artsy mindset, the good things will be enough to carry the audience along.
One last note. Scriptwise, this would make a great play. It seems practically made for the theater, with one major set location, the small-scale jeopardy, and a very confined cast of characters who do a lot of talking (and not much else).
New Movie Grade: B- (Taking away the expectation of an action/adventure flick definitely raises what’s compelling about about the concept of this kind of movie experience.)
Runpee Meta: This movie moves along quickly and is somewhat confusing, making finding Peetimes a challenge. I’ve given you a long one and a short one. Both are before the mayhem to follow, so you won’t miss any action scenes when you step out.