Skip to main content

I will unheal the shit out of you!

Hotel Artemis 
(2018)

(SPOILERS) Hotel Artemis is all set up. It's solid set up, undoubtedly – a heightened, John Wick-esque criminal world by way of John Carpenter – but once it has set out its wares, it proceeds to pulls its punches. One's left more impressed by the dependable performances and Drew Pearce's solid footing as a (debut feature) director than his ability to develop a satisfying screenplay. 



Pearce's most notable credits to date have been in collaboration with other, more esteemed scribes (Shane Black on Iron Man Three and Christopher McQuarrie rewriting him on Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Pearce having already been rewritten by Will Staples). This may be the most undiluted we've seen Pearce as a result, and the effect is… derivative, in a manner recalling those better '90s knock-offs that proceeded in the wake of Tarantino's genre shake-up. You can tell its writer led, as the plot revolves around interaction rather than set pieces, but it fails to stake out sufficiently fresh territory or identity amid the tropes. 


Set in 2028 LA during water privatisation riots, Pearce has fashioned a secret hotel that patches up criminals – rather recalling the hotel for hitmen in the John Wicks – wherein he focuses on the cross section of suspects with various agendas, each tended by Jodie Foster's Jean Thomas (aka the Nurse). The template proffers tried-and-tested types, their ready recognisability not necessarily being a bad thing, although agoraphobic Jean's painful past, complete with haunted flashbacks, is on the prefab side (as is the resolution of her arc, if you can call it that). She's accompanied by right hand giant Everest (Dave Bautista), fond of reciting his care code to patients, and the pair have an easy, chalk-and-cheese rapport. 


Sterling K Brown's Sherman (aka Waikiki: patients are known by the suite they're booked into) is the honourable criminal, caring for little brother following a bank robbery gone wrong. Nice (Sofia Boutella) is the deadly assassin; it's unclear how she knew her target was incoming before everyone else seems to have done, but I’ll assume there's an answer and it isn't a plot hole. Charlie Day is arms dealer Acapulco, an effectively repulsive creation; Day appears to be channelling Joe Pantoliano in Midnight Run. Adding friction to the mix are an injured cop (Jenny Slate) and the imminent arrival of Jeff Goldblum's the Wolf King (aka Niagara), the crime lord who essentially runs LA; he's preceded by his unstable son Crosby (Zachary Quinto), set on evading protocol and entering the premises by force.


Pearce peppers the scenario with advances in medical tech, from regenerative nanobots and laser surgical implements to liver transplants via 3D printing, effectively contrasting with the Artemis' dilapidated décor (garish wallpapers are the key feature of each suite, a literal depiction of their names). And he sets the groundwork for effective Escape from New York-style claustrophobia, juxtaposing the relative calm of the Artemis with the tumult outside, and underscoring Jean's fear of leaving, the potential for ensuing altercations if anyone should learn of the cop, and the pen full of valuables carried by Sherman.


And yet, as writer, the director seems content to allow the tension to defuse just as it's taking root. Conspiring threads that seem surely geared to break into a fight for survival once all hell breaks loose in the hotel, parties discovering deceits and deceptions and lurking agendas, never really gets there. Resolutions are enabled too easily. It isn't even clear that Sherman should be worried about having the Wolf King's pen, since no one on the latter's staff seems to know he has it. And since he's the only one who finds out about the cop and he has a good heart, that's never really an issue either. 


Thus, when things go wrong, they lead to the least interesting climax. Everest and Nice elect to stay behind while Jean and Sherman escape, neither for any very good reasons, but because that's what you do in this kind of tale. And then, denied exits in blazes of glory, Pearce doesn't have the heart and instead shows us that both have survived. This following a desperately rote confrontation between Jean and Sherman and a revenge-seeking Crosby. 


It's good to see Brown granted – effectively – leading man duties, and Foster, after a five-year screen absence, doesn't really give us an inking why she chose this part for a return (other than being asked and because she likes the crumpled old bag lady schtick), but it's nice to have her back. Boutella yet again shows her unrivalled chops in the action stakes with an extended fight in a corridor, while Goldblum makes the most of a glorified cameo. 


There are a number of writer-directors who have staked out a reasonably successful low-tier pegging in their multi-hyphenate field (David Koepp, David Twohy, Scott Frank, Drew Goddard), without – yet – showing any danger of busting out into truly sought-after status (McQuarrie, Black, Joss Whedon kind-of). On this evidence, Pearce isn’t likely to hit the next level any time soon, but as with all those names (just about) I'm eager to see whatever he does next. Hotel Artemis is okay for what it is, and wisely doesn't outstay its welcome, but it lacks that extra something that would guarantee future cult status.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

I think I’m Pablo Picasso!

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) (SPOILERS) I get the impression that, whatever it is stalwart Venom fans want from a Venom movie, this iteration isn’t it. The highlight here for me is absolutely the wacky, love-hate, buddy-movie antics of Tom Hardy and his symbiote alter. That was the best part of the original, before it locked into plot “progression” and teetered towards a climax where one CGI monster with gnarly teeth had at another CGI monster with gnarly teeth. And so it is for Venom: Let There Be Carnage . But cutting quicker to the chase.

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.

Are you, by any chance, in a trance now, Mr Morrison?

The Doors (1991) (SPOILERS) Oliver Stone’s mammoth, mythologising paean to Jim Morrison is as much about seeing himself in the self-styled, self-destructive rebel figurehead, and I suspect it’s this lack of distance that rather quickly leads to The Doors becoming a turgid bore. It’s strange – people are , you know, films equally so – but I’d hitherto considered the epic opus patchy but worthwhile, a take that disintegrated on this viewing. The picture’s populated with all the stars it could possibly wish for, tremendous visuals (courtesy of DP Robert Richardson) and its director operating at the height of his powers, but his vision, or the incoherence thereof, is the movie’s undoing. The Doors is an indulgent, sprawling mess, with no internal glue to hold it together dramatically. “Jim gets fat and dies” isn’t really a riveting narrative through line.

Did you not just hand over a chicken to someone?

The Father (2020) (SPOILERS) I was in no great rush to see The Father , expecting it to be it to be something of an ordeal in the manner of that lavishly overpraised euthanasia-fest Amour. As with the previous Oscars, though, the Best Picture nominee I saw last turned out to be the best of the bunch. In that case, Parasite , its very title beckoning the psychic global warfare sprouting shoots around it, would win the top prize. The Father , in a year of disappointing nominees, had to settle for Best Actor. Ant’s good, naturally, but I was most impressed with the unpandering manner in which Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton approached material that might easily render one highly unstuck.

So the devil's child will rise from the world of politics.

The Omen (1976) (SPOILERS) The coming of the Antichrist is an evergreen; his incarnation, or the reveal thereof, is always just round the corner, and he can always be definitively identified in any given age through a spot of judiciously subjective interpretation of The Book of Revelation , or Nostradamus. Probably nothing did more for the subject in the current era, in terms of making it part of popular culture, than The Omen . That’s irrespective of the movie’s quality, of course. Which, it has to be admitted, is not on the same level as earlier demonic forebears Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist .

I can do in two weeks what you can only wish to do in twenty years.

Wrath of Man (2021) (SPOILERS) Guy Ritchie’s stripped-down remake of Le Convoyeur (or Cash Truck , also the working title for this movie) feels like an intentional acceleration in the opposite direction to 2019’s return-to-form The Gentleman , his best movie in years. Ritchie seems to want to prove he can make a straight thriller, devoid of his characteristic winks, nods, playfulness and outright broad (read: often extremely crude) sense of humour. Even King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has its fair share of laughs. Wrath of Man is determinedly grim, though, almost Jacobean in its doom-laden trajectory, and Ritchie casts his movie accordingly, opting for more restrained performers, less likely to summon more flamboyant reflexes.

Fifty medications didn’t work because I’m really a reincarnated Russian blacksmith?

Infinite (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s as if Mark Wahlberg, his lined visage increasingly resembling a perplexed potato, learned nothing from the blank ignominy of his “performances” in previous big-budget sci-fi spectacles Planet of the Apes and, er, Max Payne . And maybe include The Happening in that too ( Transformers doesn’t count, since even all-round reprobate Shia La Boeuf made no visible dent on their appeal either way). As such, pairing him with the blandest of journeyman action directors on Infinite was never going to seem like a sterling idea, particularly with a concept so far removed from of either’s wheelhouse.

Five people make a conspiracy, right?

Snake Eyes (1998) (SPOILERS) The best De Palma movies offer a synthesis of plot and aesthetic, such that the director’s meticulously crafted shots and set pieces are underpinned by a solid foundation. That isn’t to say, however, that there isn’t a sheer pleasure to be had from the simple act of observing, from De Palma movies where there isn’t really a whole lot more than the seduction of sound, image and movement. Snake Eyes has the intention to be both scrupulously written and beautifully composed, coming after a decade when the director was – mostly – exploring his oeuvre more commercially than before, which most often meant working from others’ material. If it ultimately collapses in upon itself, then, it nevertheless delivers a ream of positives in both departments along the way.

I’ll look in Bostock’s pocket.

Doctor Who Revelation of the Daleks Lovely, lovely, lovely. I can quite see why Revelation of the Daleks doesn’t receive the same acclaim as the absurdly – absurdly, because it’s terrible – overrated Remembrance of the Daleks . It is, after all, grim, grisly and exemplifies most of the virtues for which the Saward era is commonly decried. I’d suggest it’s an all-time classic, however, one of the few times 1980s Who gets everything, or nearly everything, right. If it has a fault, besides Eric’s self-prescribed “Kill everyone” remit, it’s that it tries too much. It’s rich, layered and very funny. It has enough material and ideas to go off in about a dozen different directions, which may be why it always felt to me like it was waiting for a trilogy capper.