In 2016, the world bore witness to Suicide Squad: DC’s attempt at giving us a movie where we root for the villains. It was . . . interesting. (The word my partner’s mother uses when she’s being too Minnesota nice to say, “I don’t like this thing at all.”)
I bring this up because Hotel Artemis is another attempt to make us cheer for all things evil—but, unlike Suicide Squad, it’s a hell of a good time.
Have you ever heard the plot to a movie and said “Sign me the eff up”? That’s what this movie was for me. Just where do the bad guys go to treat those gunshot wounds? What if—now hear me out on this one—there were a hotel where they could receive medical treatment? It sounds crazy, right? But that’s what Hotel Artemis is . . . with a couple of rules to abide by.
Something about criminals having to follow rules intrigues me. They make their living by shattering the rules to pieces, but all that gets brushed aside when they step through those metal gates.
Jodie Foster, AKA “the Nurse,” run Hotel Artemis. Upon first glance, she’s the last person you’d expect to stand toe to toe with crime lords; she looks like that old woman who invites you over for freshly baked cookies, maybe even puts a Band-Aid on your scraped knee. And, in all honesty, that’s exactly who she is—just don’t cross her, ya know? Those of us with grandmas know better than to get on their bad sides, but just in case, the Nurse’s hired muscle (Dave Bautista) will give you a not-so-gentle reminder.
Foster shines in the role, portraying a woman who’s walking this sort of gray area when it comes to morals and ethics. You feel for her when she’s trying to save a patient, even if the patient just robbed a bank and held a bunch of folks hostage. This may be because she and the hotel feel like they exist outside the rest of the world. The city is (literally) burning, but Hotel Artemis remains as this sort of relic. It’s an exclusive place to get into and has marvelous medical tech—but the TVs are busted, and the power generator is on the fritz again. The Nurse shows compassion toward criminals, and her rules feel like an attempt to separate her from their wrongdoing. Sure, they’re killers for hire, but inside Artemis they better not step out of line.
The rest of the cast comprises a variety of villains. Think of that cliché set of folks from the wrong side of the tracks and insert the likes of Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, and Charlie Day into those character slots. Watching them interact with one another makes for an entertaining experience, especially with hard-and-fast rules like “No fighting.”
Brown is magnificent, but then again, that’s kinda his type. He’s that cool criminal who wears a nice suit and just wants a good cup of coffee. Sofia Boutella is the femme fatale, and while there’s not much to her beyond that, she does give an almost sultry performance and makes you eager to see her take out folks in that red dress. Dave Bautista brings the sense of humor to the story and knows just where to slide in a comedic line or two, while Charlie Day will probably grate on your nerves. Don’t worry—he’s supposed to, ’cause you gotta have a scumbag in the group, I guess.
The only thing about the movie that’s not so great is the plot. Not that it has to be complex, but it’s not all that spectacular. You never really get a sense of danger, even though the movie is trying to build suspense. Yes, something’s about to go down at ol’ Artemis, but the threat is nothing compared to the folks inside the building. When the main cast is composed of criminal masterminds, you’ve got to have a threat that trumps that, and the movie doesn’t. The riots in the street outside are getting out of control, and . . . so what? Jeff Goldblum is doing his Jeff Goldblum thing, and it’s charming as all hell, but . . . so what? There are a bunch of henchmen trying to get in, and . . . so what? It’s a threat because the characters tell us so, but you never really feel like they’re in danger. The Wolf King is supposed to have an iron grip on the city, but we never get to see why everyone walks on eggshells around him. Instead, we get his doofy son, who has nowhere near the sass level he needs to be for us to find him threatening. Is this really the son of the smarmy king?
Still, this movie is a fairly fun way to spend your evening. It’s surprisingly short, too, clocking in at a little over 90 minutes. If you’re in the mood for a flick where some pretty stylish bad guys talk smack to each other and kick a little ass, this is the one.