In a near future Los Angeles there stands the Hotel Artemis, a sanctuary for criminals with a full-service nurse—for members only, of course. When riots break out during a heist that goes unexpectedly wrong for a group of crooks packing futuristic tech, they make their way to the Artemis. To Sanctuary… or so they think.
What follows is a powder keg situation. As the nurse (Jodie Foster) and her fellow company employee of the hotel, Everest (Dave Bautista), a kind of enforcer for the rules of the hotel, take in various people in these misfits in need of help; it becomes clear that everyone has their own agendas to further within the hotel. Some seem pointed at other guests, despite the anonymity provided by the hotel (guests are only called the name of the suite they are staying in).
Waikiki has a brother and partner in the heist gone wrong and needs medical help. But the pair shortly discovers that what they stole puts them in mortal danger at the hotel. Nice (Sofia Boutella) is an assassin who only kills important people, Acapulco (Charlie Day) is an asshole gun runner.
At first, it feels like maybe Hotel Artemis is just another action flick set in a futuristic, John Wick hotel of assassins. But as the film progresses it becomes clear that surrounding the action there is a larger narrative taking place and, kind of an obsession, with “the rules”.
It becomes clear that all of the characters have these internalized rules. Whether imposed by the world or their sub-culture; or in the case of the nurse and Everest, the rules are a boot on their respective neck. Originally, the rules seem to be in place to keep them safe. At least, it’s a fair assumption based on how each of them recites the Artemis rules like a mantra, especially the nurse. Believing that if a rule is broken the whole place would fall apart. But really, they are the thing they clutch onto in order to maintain their sanity in a world breaking apart; just as the world around them is devolving and splitting apart because of a riot fueled, at least initially, by protestors, so too are the characters being stripped bare.
The primary throughline of the movie and, incidentally, why I think it’s cyberpunk; is the tearing down of these rules and how important they are to the story. Sometimes it’s to do the right things despite immediate and deadly consequences. Other times it’s to contribute to the ties that bound them in the first place. Societal structures are being ripped down everywhere you look outside of the Artemis but inside it’s a much more human and grounded struggle reflective of the larger one.
The most surprising thing about the movie is the nurse’s story, which gradually unfolds as visitors arrive and reveal more of her past. While not a movie that is particularly intelligent, it does break from the expected formula and roots it in an emotional place that becomes a lens for the other guests to view their own lives and perspectives, as it becomes clear that lives they know will be radically changed. There comes a moment for all of them to choose to follow the rules or not. And the choices form the most interesting aspects of the story.
Hotel Artemis is a gorgeous movie with a great cast, awesome technology, effects, and does more work than a simple action flick it initially appears to be. I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I’d expected. It’s strange that this movie flew under the radar and is very hard to get (at least in Canada).