‘Hotel Artemis’ Review: Drew Pearce’s Noir Pastiche Never Lives Up to its Potential
It should be so easy to root for “Hotel Artemis.” An original, star-studded, somewhat sci-fi crime thriller in a summer movie season that’s already bloated with sterile franchise junk, Drew Pearce’s directorial debut is exactly the kind of mid-budget divertissement that cinema needs to survive. In theory, at least.
Set in an art deco hideout that’s been refashioned into a secret hospital for criminals and killers (imagine a much dingier, more derivative version of the Continental Hotel from “John Wick”), the film has so much working in its favor: Sterling K. Brown in a lead role! Jodie Foster’s first acting work in five years! Dave Bautista as a sweet-natured strongman who barks things like “Check out time is never!” Not to mention Jeff Goldblum playing a feared underworld figure known only as “The Wolf King,” and a scene where someone gets murdered with a 3D printer! And it wraps all of this stuff in a moldy enchilada of future panic, dropping us into downtown L.A. circa 2028 as corporate malfeasance incites the largest riot in the city’s history.
Yet, for all of these potential charms and prophetic worries, “Hotel Artemis” struggles to sustain even the most basic level of intrigue, suspense, or entertainment value. A handful of amusing details in desperate need of a purpose, the film spends its first half looking for a compelling reason to exist, and its second half trying to disguise the fact that it can’t find one.
The action is set 10 years from now, in a dark and seedy version of Los Angeles that resembles what ’90s movies thought the millennium might look like (in its more evocative moments, “Hotel Artemis” is hellish enough to feel like it’s right down the street from “Strange Days”). We open in the middle of a bank robbery, as a criminal codenamed “Waikiki” (Brown) and his brother “Honolulu” (“Atlanta” mega-talent Brian Tyree Henry) separate some rich folks from their money, and steal a MacGuffin in the process. When the heist inevitably goes wrong and Honolulu gets shot by the police, the thieves only have one place to go.
The Artemis is a nifty bit of noir set design, even if the floor plan seems a bit flat for a…