Like most people in the world, I’ve become a huge fan of the John Wick series of movies. They’ve become some of my favorite action flicks of all time, and I’m eagerly awaiting the third film in the franchise, and have been waiting to see what effects that these films would have on action films in general. Specifically, I was wondering when we’d start getting movies that tried to ape John Wick’s sense of world-building. I feel like this may be a somewhat unpopular opinion, but I think I like the second John Wick more than the first, primarily because it dives even deeper into the weird world that the franchise is building, getting into some wonderfully specific nitty gritty that really clicks for me. So, you can imagine how delighted I was when I first saw the trailer for the new film Hotel Artemis. It’s not related to John Wick, but it certainly seems to be inspired by it. A movie about a strange hospital that caters to criminals, focusing on the worst possible night this hospital could have? Yes, that sounds very much like something that I would love. And, lo and behold, I did! The movie isn’t working for everyone, seemingly because they were expecting it to become something that it wasn’t, but it worked like gangbusters for me.
Hotel Artemis takes place in the near future where Los Angeles is rocked by violent protests over the corporatization of the cities water supply. And, taking advantage of this turmoil, a pair of brother bank robbers attempt to pull a job that goes terribly wrong. They both end up getting shot, and the older brother decides they need to find somewhere to hide and heal. Luckily, he’s a member of an exclusive private hospital for criminals known as the Hotel Artemis. He and his brother arrive, meet with the Nurse who runs the whole place, and get assigned pseudonyms. The older brother becomes Waikiki, and his brother becomes Honolulu, while the Nurse finds that Honolulu was shot in the liver, and needs a 3D printed transplant to survive. This will take a while though, so Waikiki gets to wander around, mingling with the other patients, the deadly assassin Nice and the obnoxious arms dealer Acapulco, and the deadly bodyguard/orderly Everest. The Nurse keeps everything in order, primarily through rigidly enforced rules, which she’s forced to break when she finds out that a police officer that she knew as a girl has been injured in the riots, and is outside the Hotel, in desperate need of help.
And the problems don’t stop there. Because it turns out that Honolulu stole something he shouldn’t have from the bank, a pen containing several diamonds worth millions of dollar, which belong to a local crime-boss called the Wolf King. Which is a coincidence, because it turns out that the Wolf King is the money behind the Hotel, and is going to need the Nurse’s services. He’s been injured that night and his hotheaded son and his entire entourage are racing toward the Hotel to get him patched up. We also learn that Nice specifically shot herself and gained access to the Artemis in order to kill the Wolf King, breaking several of the rules that the Artemis has, all for a massive pay day. These characters swirl around each other, each getting their own time to shine and look into what’s going on in their lives until things completely fall apart. The Nurse ends up finding out that the Wolf King was responsible for the death of her son, leading her down the path that ended with her agreeing to run this hospital, and Nice cuts the power to the building. This ends up killing Honolulu, and in the confusion Nice is able to kill the Wolf King, causing his son and goons to stop caring about any of the rules, starting a riot inside the Hotel. Waikiki is shattered by the death of his brother, and manages to fight his way out of the Hotel, with help from the Nurse. Most everyone dies, but Waikiki and the Nurse escape, heading their own separate ways.
I feel like I understand why this film has been getting such mixed reactions. The trailer for the film seemed to guarantee that it was going to be heavily influenced by John Wick, and become another ballsy action flick, full of over-the-top action and characters. But, it really wasn’t much of an action movie. There are a couple moments of violence, but overall it was a character piece, full of a bunch of fun weirdos hiding their own motivations while fleshing out a very strange and specific work. And that’s something that I can really get behind. The film has a great design, giving us a broke-down sense of class which works well with the whole idea of these criminals putting on airs. And it’s all bolstered by a litany of terrific performances. Jodie Foster is really great as the Nurse, giving us a surprisingly nuanced and relatable character to cling to during all the insanity of the film. Sterling K Brown steals the show as Waikiki, giving us a character who is intimidating, loyal, and honestly worthy of following on future adventures. Everyone else does a great job as well, filling out a cast of criminal oddballs that you can’t help but get drawn in by.
Which is really what makes this film work. I don’t know why the world of criminals is so fascinating to society, but it really has become one of the biggest genres of storytelling there is. And, in a world where we’re increasingly fascinated with gritty and real-life stories it’s so wonderfully refreshing to see movies like this that go in the opposite direction. This is a colorful and weird story full of characters that feel like they sprung from the pages of a comic book, less realistic villains and more campy. The vast majority of people don’t know what the actual world of crime is like, but films like this can give us a fun fantasy of that world. The idea that criminals have their own hospital that can accommodate glamorous assassins, common bank robbers, and city-running crime bosses is just a great one, and this film takes that premise and spins gold with it. This film is an oddity, but I for one am always going to be on board for a film that follows a group of weird criminals being dirtbags.
Hotel Artemis was written and directed by Drew Pearce and released by Global Road Entertainment, 2018.
Categories: Reel Talk