Of all the blood-and-whisky-soaked dystopian thrillers peddled to all the Chinese financiers by all of Hollywood, why on Earth would Oscar winner Jodie Foster return to the big screen with “Hotel Artemis?”
She plays “Nurse,” who runs an underworld hotel-hospital in the LA of very near future, where class war has turned ugly as the poor finally start to fight back, when water riots over the privatization of the elixir of life make the city a combat zone.
And everybody, wounded hoodlums in need of her robot-assisted surgery to mob bosses and their sons and her own orderly (Dave Bautista) refers to her as “Old Woman.”
So yeah, even if it had worked, it was never going to be slapped on her Hollywood Royalty resume.
Writer-director Drew Pearce has tarted-up a dullish action comedy that finds laughs hard to come by and its moral underpinnings shaky in a future where medicine is largely a one or two person operation, with the aforementioned surgical robots and nanotech injections that can patch up even the most badly shot up.
Got a “ventilated liver?” She’ll 3D print one, have it installed and park you in one of the suites of the aged but upgraded Hotel Artemis, suites named “Honolulu, Waikiki, Nice, Niagara” and the like.
A bank robbery gone wrong puts Sherman (Sterling K. Brown) in need of the hotel, a members-only establishment where if you’re not prepaid, you’re not saved. Sherman’s brother (Brian Tyree Henry) is the guy in need of a liver.
But before brother Lev screwed-up the robbery get away and aired out his liver, he stole this outsized pen from the Alfred Hitchcock “Macguffin” collection. That’s either their ticket to easy street, or their doom.
And it’s not like the other patients at the Artemis, the mouthy arms dealer (Charlie Day) or French assassin (Sofia Boutella) will be any help or comfort.
Foster plays Nurse as a harried professional at this “dark house” (gangster slang for no-questions-asked hospitals), and a stickler for “the Hotel rules” — no weapons, “no killing the other patients.”
That’s going to be tested as the bank robber and the assassin have history, and there’s an A-list patient, “the guy who runs LA” being rushed in through a city night torn by the worst riot in LA’s history. That would be “The Wolf King of LA.”
“Such a dumb nickname,” Nurse chortles, critiquing the silly script for the audience.
It’s the sort of film where “You work with what you’ve got, not what you hoped for” is a good line, though more often we hear “How long has it been?” “You know EXACTLY how long it’s been!” is more common, a script trafficking in trite hardboiled dialogue and a plot that seems to spin out of that mythic hotel run by Ian McShane in the “John Wick” movies. Pearce wrote the lesser “Iron Man” and “Mission: Impossible” sequels.
What “Artemis” has going for it are Foster, Bautista, and especially Jeff Goldblum as that Wolf King fellow, with an over-the-top Zachary Quinto, insufferable Charlie Day and Jenny Slate in a “Let’s find somebody for Jenny Slate to play” afterthought.
Boutella, the titular “Mummy” of Tom Cruise’s nightmares, has the best fight scene. But “Hotel Artemis” isn’t really about that. As it’s not funny, and the Nurse has a past that is barely worth pondering as the source of her haunted, hard-drinking demeanor and many, many MANY flashbacks, the picture all boils down to politics and futurism.
So there’s a crack about escaping “South of the Wall,” and some grim socio-economics on the streets outside, where the peons have finally gotten Stinger missiles and started shooting down police helicopters.
Is that enough? Hell no. Foster isn’t funny old or sweet old or curmudgeonly old. She’s just a 50something made up to look like a 60something. Yawn.
Bautista gets the few good lines, Boutella the best outfit and Goldblum the best scenes.
None of which make “Hotel Artemis” a destination hostel for film lovers of any genre or of any actor in this cast. Foster has never let us know she’s taken a role solely for the payday. Not until now.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references, and brief drug use
Cast: Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Sterling K. Brown, Zachary Quinto, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Jenny Slate, Charlie Day
Credits: Written and directed by Drew Pearce. A Global Road release.
Running time: 1:33