There are already oodles of fan theories circulating through the interwebs, positing that Hotel Artemis and 2014’s John Wick (and its 2017 sequel) exist in the same universe. And it’s certainly easy to draw a very straight, very thick line between them. One of the more clever elements of Wick is the Hotel Continental—a place of refuge peopled entirely by criminals but with very strict rules that expressly forbid anything the slightest bit nefarious. Artemis screenwriter Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) apparently liked that concept so much that he decided to make it the centerpiece of his above-average, highly stylized directorial debut.
Set in Los Angeles during the summer of 2028, Artemis finds Jodie Foster as “The Nurse”, the hotel’s de facto boss. She patches up her guests’ wounds, keeps the uninvited out, and, with the help of her muscle Everest (Dave Bautista), generally keeps the peace while riots rage on the streets outside.
Two of the guests granted admission are Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry)—nicknames come courtesy of The Nurse upon your arrival—who are in dire straits after a failed bank robbery attempt. They join blowhard Acapulco (Charlie Day) and menacing Nice (Sofia Boutella), who have already checked-in. No one is sure who can be trusted, everyone wants to punch Acapulco in the face, Nice and Waikiki seem to have a history together, and the riots are getting closer. Then things go from bad to worse when news arrives that the hotel’s owner, ruthless LA crime boss The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), is on his way, hoping the Nurse can patch him up.
Oozing a pseudo-noir, art deco vibe, Hotel Artemis (and its minuscule budget and indie feel) seems woefully out of place in the height of the summer movie season, but just because it’s in a theater sandwiched between Deadpool 2 and Ocean’s 8doesn’t make it any less appealing. Pearce has crafted a surprising action flick that entertains as much as it makes you arch your eyebrow. The cast is all first-rate, with the charismatic Brown and the always-great Foster leading the way. And Jenny Slate and Zachary Quinto also shine in minor roles.
Things hum along nicely from the get-go; the action and fight scenes are tightly choreographed, and the set design by Ramsey Avery (10 Cloverfield Lane) is as much a character as Waikiki and Acapulco are. Pearce’s script only seems to falter toward the end, as Artemis doesn’t seem to quite know how to wrap things up, but as a heady actioner, it does alright for itself, playing like Tarantino-lite by way of Frank Lloyd Wright.
It may not pack quite the oomph of its theorized universe-mate John Wick, but Hotel Artemis is clearly in the neighborhood (perhaps even literally) and certainly worth a check-in, even if you don’t become a repeat guest.