Dystopian thriller Hotel Artemis worth checking in with
HOTEL ARTEMIS (15, 94 mins) Thriller/Sci-Fi/Action/Romance. Jodie Foster, Sterling K Brown, Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista, Brian Tyree Henry, Zachary Quinto, Jeff Goldblum. Director: Drew Pearce.
Rating: 3 stars
STYLE confidently trumps substance in Drew Pearce's intriguing dystopian thriller about a secret membership-only hospital for the criminal fraternity.
Set during a sweltering summer of civil unrest in futuristic Los Angeles, Hotel Artemis dazzles with expertly choreographed fight sequences and pithy one-liners, like one world weary character's terse summation of her ex-husband's grim future.
"He lives in Florida," she deadpans. "Life took him out already."
The writer-director is aided by a mesmerising lead performance from Jodie Foster as the agoraphobic clinician in charge of the hospital, who has spent 22 torturous years within its cracked walls and self-medicates to numb the pain of her devastating loss.
Shuffling down dimly lit corridors or staring forlornly into the camera with haunted, sunken eyes, the Oscar-winning actress captures the desolation of a broken woman who is at the beck and call of her members, but seldom permits herself to forge lasting connections.
When one of the other characters eventually breaks down her defences, rage and grief pour out of her like molten lava, threatening to burn her home to the ground and everyone inside it.
Meanwhile, outside the clinic it's June 2028 and Los Angeles is a tinderbox of incendiary emotions.
A shadowy corporation has turned off the city's water supply, sparking days of riots.
While baton-wielding police keep the angry horde at bay, Sherman (Sterling K Brown) and brother Lev (Brian Tyree Henry) orchestrate a bank heist, culminating in a gunfight with armed officers.
Lev takes a potentially fatal bullet and Sherman rushes his sibling to Hotel Artemis, run by The Nurse (Foster) and her hulking assistant, Everest (Dave Bautista).
Entry to this mouldering bolthole demands acceptance of 10 ground rules - "no fighting with or killing other patients" is top of the list - and residents are given geographical codenames for the duration of their stay.
Consequently, Sherman and Lev become Waikiki and Honolulu.
Other rooms are occupied by acrobatic, blade-wielding assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella) and arrogant, sexism-spewing arms dealer Acapulco (Charlie Day).
When sadistic underworld boss The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) is unexpectedly rushed to the hospital by his jittery heir apparent (Zachary Quinto), other patients prepare to make a hasty recovery.
Hotel Artemis is a blood-smeared bauble, polished to a deceptive lustre by an excellent ensemble cast.
Pearce conjures a vivid alternate reality in which bad men and women use their ill-gotten gains to repeatedly cheat death.
The filmmaker is aided by grungy production design and South Korean cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, who revels in the decaying grandeur of the central location.
Foster's searing performance is complemented by a tender brotherly bond between Brown and Henry, and the bristling menace of Bautista as an orderly, who threatens "to unheal" anyone who breaks the hospital's bond of confidentiality.
The promised prescription of thrills and spills delivers only a fleeting high.