Monday, June 11, 2018

Hotel Artemis

Another day, another opportunity for saying that I'm making up for missing the first night of Noir City: Boston by having an extra bit of crime in the morning, although this one wound up being a tighter fit (shorter run-time, but started later and had more trailers attached). Not quite as good, either, although I'm not going to lie - neither is necessarily a huge improvement over sleeping in a couple extra hours, although neither is something I wanted to miss.

I do find my appetite starting to get good and whetted for the Fantasia International Film Festival. I mention in the start and end of the EFC review that both it and last week's Upgrade feel like something that might play Fantasia (or Fantastic Fest, if that's your frame of reference) feel like genre-festival movies: They've got heightened, detailed settings, but with enough blood and a low-enough budget that they don't feel like the sort of things that hit the multiplexes in the Marvel Age of Movies. They'd be a bit of a big deal at a festival, given how our eyebrows tend to lift a bit when we see names like Ethan Hawke and Antonio Banderas in the program (and holy crap there was a movie with Mel Gibson in it a year or two ago!), and something with Jodie Foster would seem nuts. For better or worse, these both seem like movies that play those festivals but don't hit the mainstream, and I'm not exactly sure what it means that these two got the release they did.

Hotel Artemis

* * (out of four)
Seen 10 June 2018 in AMC Boston Common #11 (first-run, DCP)

How in the heck does this thing wind up playing a whole bunch of mainstream theaters in summer 2018? It feels like the natural home for this sort of idiosyncratic weird-corner-of-a-larger-unseen-universe flick is a genre film festival (where we're all wondering how a film starring Jodie Foster landed there) or a 1990s video store shelf. Even more than Upgrade last week, it's a weird grindhouse oddity pushed wide like something with broad appeal, although it doesn't even deliver on its weird promise as much as that one.

The year is 2028, Los Angeles is rioting because the private company that controls the water supply is turning off the tap, and that's either the best or worst time to rob a bank. Unfortunately for Sherman (Sterling K. Brown), his brother Lev (Brian Tyree Henry), and their accomplice Buke (Kenneth Choi), it means a lot of extra armed cops on the street, but they've got a plan for when the bullets find them: Chips in their wrists give them access to Hotel Artemis, whose first dozen floors may be abandoned, but the penthouse floor has been converted into five highly automated medical bays for criminals overseen by The Nurse (Jodie Foster), a hard-drinking, agoraphobic physician who has lost her license, and her hulking orderly Everest (Dave Bautista). This crew is assigned to the Honolulu and Waikiki suites, with Acapulco occupied by an obnoxious arms dealer (Charlie Day) and Nice by an international assassin (Sofia Boutella). That leaves one for The Wolf King of Los Angeles (Jeff Goldblum), who's about an hour away. Except there's a cop (Jenny Slate) wounded outside the entrance, and while that's obviously against club rules, The Nurse knows her from before.

That sounds like a great ticking time bomb of a setup, but that turns out not to be the case. Writer/director Drew Pearce has nested an interesting setup inside a believable near-future dystopia, but the story is absurdly slow to develop. The movie's first half is characters acknowledging each other as different degrees of mysterious and cool, but all they do is to complain that they can't watch TV, and let's be frank: If the people in the movie think what is going on in the background is much more interesting than their situation, why shouldn't the audience? It seems to be trying to live in the world of John Wick without establishing anyone other than Foster's Nurse as being as worth one's attention as John Wick, so that when a maybe half-decent action finale happens, we're not really invested.

Full review on EFC

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