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Jodie Foster operates seedy hotel-turned-hospital in dark, R-rated 'Hotel Artemis'

POSTED June 8, 2018 9:59 a.m.
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“HOTEL ARTEMIS” — 2½ stars — Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry; R (violence and language throughout, some sexual references, and brief drug use); in general release

Drew Pearce’s "Hotel Artemis" follows the story of a particularly bad night at a top-secret underworld hospital for criminals. Set 10 years into an apocalyptic future, Pearce's film takes place in a seedy Los Angeles beset by riots after the local government shuts off the water supply to the city.

For 22 years, the Hotel Artemis has provided medical accommodation to criminals fortunate enough to get membership, which means they are able to keep up on dues and follow the establishment's strict regiment of rules, including a no-guns policy. The hotel's two-person staff is led by the Nurse (Jodie Foster), a discredited doctor who has run the place ever since losing her son. Her No. 2 two is Everest (Dave Bautista), a loyal bouncer responsible for enforcing the rules and handling the grunt work around the hotel.

With the riots getting worse outside, "Hotel Artemis" takes place on a night when a number of criminals, who go by the names assigned to their hotel suites, descend on the establishment in search of help. Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) arrive with a set of bullet wounds after a bank robbery gone bad. Nice (Sofia Boutella) is an expert assassin who arrives with a bullet wound, plus a secret agenda. Acapulco (Charlie Day) is an irritating elitist who just wants to get treatment as fast as possible so he can leave the rest of the filth at the hotel behind.

This mostly routine setup gets complicated with the late arrival of two more guests: an injured cop named Morgan (Jenny Slate) who gets sneaked in only because she’s an old friend of the Nurse's son, and the mysterious Mr. Franklin (Jeff Goldblum), the hotel's owner, who brings an entourage of thugs led by his highly strung son Crosby (Zachary Quinto).

Known publicly as “The Wolf King,” Mr. Franklin is the crime lord of 2028 Los Angeles, and unsurprisingly, the guests of the hotel all have connections to him. His arrival spurs the plot in motion, all while the Nurse desperately tries to keep Morgan's presence secret from Mr. Franklin and the rest of the guests.

It's kind of a fun idea – a bit of a riff on the Continental Hotel of the "John Wick" series, and other audiences may see similarities to "Smokin' Aces" (2006) — and for some audiences, its hits will be able to offset its misses. The Nurse gets the lion’s share of character development — in addition to mourning her son, she is virtually unable to leave the building, and given what we see outside, no one would blame her.

Some of the supporting characters work well. Everest feels like a close cousin to Bautista's Drax character from "Guardians of the Galaxy," Brown is appealing as one of the “good” bad guys, and if you’re a fan of Jeff Goldblum, Jeff Goldblum is, well …Jeff Goldblum.

"Hotel Artemis" leans on suspense more than action, but those action scenes are pretty good. The film's rating accounts for some violent content, but mostly from a lot of R-rated profanity, which frankly feels kind of lazy and distracting here. Frequently it is as if the criminals are just trying to talk tough to boost their weak credibility (especially Day, whose character should top most audience lists of “characters who should get killed off early”).

The final product doesn’t feel quite as skillful as other films in its genre, and its content and tone will limit its audience, but altogether, “Hotel Artemis” offers a few high moments.

“Hotel Artemis” is rated R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references, and brief drug use; running time: 93 minutes.

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