Every film has those moments when the world pauses for just one brief second to let the audience breathe and take in that bad ass one liner or insane action stunt. Now make a movie out of just these moments with none of the plot, character development or thrills needed to make them work. Drench it in a bleak cyberpunk aesthetic to hide these facts and congratulations, you pretty much have Hotel Artemis.
Coming out in a summer of big budget franchises, this low budget, original flick somehow feels more artificial than the lot due to its Frankenstein’s monster of a script. Brilliant character actors, both comedic and dramatic, are wasted on a glorified student film; complete with the pretentious flashbacks and nonsensical ending. Its impressive then that each of these performers manage to give a genuinely strong performance despite what they are given to work with; led throughout by the always strong Jodie Foster as the Hotels manager and medic. She proves to be a refreshing protagonist in comparison to the dangerous people she works with yet her character is never fleshed out enough to feel memorable and, as consequence, the films questionable conclusion falls flat. While her guests and colleagues are each distinct from one another, they all feel too safe and predictable with stars like Jeff Goldblum and Sofia Boutella slipping into the same roles they always play.
However, Hotel Artemis is not without some merit. Hidden within the film are some shining comedic and action moments that had me genuinely satisfied as a viewer but they are few and far between compared to the aloof caricatures the characters otherwise are. The production is frankly beautiful in both costume and set design, fusing future technology with retro chic and covering it in a thick layer of grime and dust. The places we see certainly feel lived in but, perhaps because of budget, the scale of world building just isn’t there and we become isolated in the same few sets repeated till the end. Isolation may be the intended effect yet it brings with it a failure to give the film development or its own distinct identity from films like the recent Blade Runner 2049.
Hotel Artemis is the epitome of style over substance; pretty and often entertaining yet, much like the titular building, lacks structure and is constantly on the verge of falling apart.