Its 2028, and the futures great, if you can afford the price- in the grand cyberpunk tradition of films like Robocop, and in a dark reflection of the classic Chinatown, Los Angeles is being torn apart by riots following a corporation’s decision to privatise the cities water supply. The City of Angels is now looking more like Escape From New York‘s prison wasteland, armoured riot police patrolling the streets and helicopters being shot out of the sky.
Hidden amongst the cities tower blocks behind the facade of an abandoned hotel, Hotel Artemis is a heavily fortified medical facility reserved for the criminal fraternity- a place where criminals, if they are paid-up members, can access the talents of The Nurse (a great turn from Jodie Foster under some make-up) an old woman who hasn’t left the building in over twenty years, and her assistant/muscle, the aptly-monickered Everest (Dave Bautista), who enforces the rules- reminiscent of those of John Wick‘s hotels- that guests cannot bring in guns or fight the other guests whilst on the premises.
The premise may not seem captivating -it’s certainly not original, wearing its influences clearly on its bloody sleeve- but in execution Hotel Artemis is a great, a rather refreshing little b-movie with a cool head on its shoulders. Shot for about $15 million, it looks good and punches way above its weight regards its cast- as well as Foster and Bautista, it features Jeff Goldblum in the best performance I’ve seen from him in years, and Sterling K Brown, Sofia Boutella and Zachary Quinto put in fine work. It favours the early films of John Carpenter, looking a lot like a modern Escape From New York and also Alan Rudolph’s lovely Trouble in Mind, a retro-looking slice of the future that really makes the most of its claustrophobic setting and gritty, violent nature.
It also sounds alot like Carpenter’s early films too, thanks to a fine electronic score from Clint Martinez that is typically for him, brutal in places and angelic in others, ably supporting the film.
I found myself enjoying this film much more than I expected. Probably it’s that retro feel, harking back to Carpenter’s stuff, which I’m always a sucker for, but it moves along at a great pace and is over before you can question some of the logic. Foster’s The Nurse is a memorable character whose past comes back to both haunt her and set her free and the setting is so well realised it’s a pleasure to soak it up. It recalls so much of the genre flicks of the 1970s when most movies of the future were dark and bleak as this, and yes, there are neat nods to Robocop, stuff like that. Medical technology has improved, using organs from 3D printers and nanotech and advanced drugs, but it seems only the criminals can afford it using their ill-gotten gains, and the police seem to be out for hire to the highest corporate bidder. Its a lovely noir, dark-future movie, and while its not trying to be anything groundshakingly original, it uses its influences to fashion something that still feels fresh enough to enjoy with an indie-flavour that, again, reminded me so much of Trouble in Mind.
A great little movie, and a real surprise (is it wrong of me to admit I can forgive little films like this things I’d bitch about if it had a $50 million budget?). Mind, even though it only cost a purported $15 million, it still managed to fail to make any profit (worldwide it only earned about $13 million, which makes me wonder did it even get anything like a proper release?) so I guess that’s why stuff like this seems so rare, and its fate quite undeserved.