Originality isn’t filmmaker Drew Pearce’s strong suit, but his sci-fi thriller has enough snaky twists and turns and moody energy to make it a fun ride. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Supposing … somebody got the notion to make a sci-fi crime thriller with a central character called The Nurse. A nod, it would seem, to cruel Nurse Ratched of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” though this iteration, a woman wan and wrinkled and played by Jodie Foster, is a compassionate healer. Foster imbues the character with an air of quiet competence tinged with inner torment.
She’s the head honcho (honcha?) at the Hotel Artemis, a peculiar members-only institution in downtown L.A. whose clientele is restricted to criminals who must abide by a few strict rules: No guns allowed on the premises and no killing other patients. Hmmm. Kind of like the high-end refuge for crooks that was featured prominently in “John Wick.”
The Artemis is actually a hospital where shot-up baddies are patched up by The Nurse. But its interior ambience, redolent of decayed grandeur with its long carpeted corridors lined by decorative sconces suggestive of the 1920s, is reminiscent of the ominous Hotel Earle in “Barton Fink.”
Add in a limber and lethal female assassin, played by Sofia Boutella, who seems to be reprising her character in “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” and Jeff Goldblum as a megalomaniacal crime lord very much in the mold of the guy he played in “Thor: Ragnarok,” and it seems like we’re in the midst of a lively round of the game “Spot the Influences.”
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Not saying that’s what writer-director Drew Pearce had in mind when he sat down to write “Hotel Artemis,” his feature directorial debut, but that’s the way it all came out.
Set during a single tumultuous night in 2028 where outside the Artemis walls rioting rages over a critical water shortage, the parts include: the lady assassin slinking about on a secret mission, Foster’s Nurse revisiting her sad backstory in flashbacks, and a wounded bank robber (Sterling K. Brown) desperately seeking to save his more seriously wounded brother (Brian Tyree Henry).
There are a lot of moving parts here, and Pearce fits them together with admirable skill. Originality isn’t his strong suit, but “Artemis” has enough snaky twists and turns and moody energy to make it a fun ride.
★★½ “Hotel Artemis,” with Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Dave Bautista, Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto, Sofia Boutella, Brian Tyree Henry. Written and directed by Drew Pearce. 93 minutes. Rated R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references, and brief drug use. Multiple theaters.