Directed by Drew Pearce
Starring Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum
“Hotel Artemis” is a classic example of a movie promising far more than it’s capable of delivering.
It sounds like midnight movie heaven — a cast of A-listers headlined by Jodie Foster occupying pulpy action territory in dystopian Los Angeles, circa 2028.
The narrative plays like a “John Wick” spinoff, in which Foster’s character (dubbed The Nurse), operates a hospital for hit men and other underworld types not unlike the one owned by Ian McShane in the former franchise.
But whereas “John Wick” set the bar high for this era of star-studded B-grade exploitation flicks, thanks to its mixture of deadpan humor and comic violence, as well as its star’s stoic charisma, “Artemis” feels too in love with itself to achieve a similar effect.
The key to selling an absurdist concept like this, in which Foster is joined by everyone from Sterling K. Brown to Jeff Goldblum and Jenny Slate in the throes of endless beatdowns, is to treat it seriously without seeming to be in on the joke.
Some of the actors understand this concept better than others. Yet, by the time Goldblum emerges, doing his usual enigmatic weirdo shtick, the movie has lost any claim to being anything but a big put-on.
Writer-director Drew Pearce demonstrates technical promise alongside cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, both in terms of the ways they capture the Southern California neo-noir atmospherics inside the hotel and in the molding of grit and style in the action scenes.
But there’s no effectively captured emotional underpinning shaping the film, no tangible larger motivating factor like John Wick’s murdered dog to propel the drama toward being something more than an exercise in genre movie pizzazz. “Hotel Artemis” is not really about anything, per se, other than exactly what’s on-screen at any particular moment.