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Friday, June 8, 2018

GeekRex Quick-Take: HOTEL ARTEMIS

The Buzz: Drew Pearce won a lot of good will with the critics after his collaboration with Shane Black, Iron Man 3, was a surprising delight and a huge hit, billion dollar hit. His next project was always going to be one that grabbed attention, and while he had a cup of coffee with various productions that either required script polishing or got significant rewrites after his participation, Hotel Artemis marks his first full-fledged return to the big screen since that 2013 smash. On top of that, its also his directorial debut. That additional wrinkle ratchets up the curiosity factor even moreso. After making its debut at the Berlin International Film Festival, this high concept/sci-fi actioner is debuting this weekend with an equally enticing cast. Sterling K. Brown, richly decorated in recent years for his excellent television work, is getting a much deserved spotlight here while being teamed with Jodie Foster (in a relatively rare recent on-screen appearance), the continually rising star that is Dave Bautista, Sofia Boutella, Jenny Slate, the awesome Brian Tyree Henry, and Zachary Quinto.

With a cast like that, in a high concept bone-breaker, it's hard not to want to take a peek.

What's Great About This Movie: At the outset, Hotel Artemis has a cool sense of energy that reminds me less of the immediate comparison point, John Wick, and more of something like The Raid or maybe even more off-kilter influences like the work of Jeunet. And for about a third of its relatively brisk 90+ minute running time, Pearce is able to cost on that spirit of invention. There's a lot of fun toys to play with here, and around the corner a new one keeps popping up. It's central idea, a hospital for criminals in a high-rise hotel with an ever creeping riot edging ever-closer in future downtown Los Angeles is a great hook to hang your hat on. And Foster does especially strong work as the central figure by which the entire film rests. As the exhausted Jean Thomas, Foster wears a lot of years and mileage in a character inflected by a tragic past and now uses her gifts to help the worst of the worst. She's clearly having a lot of fun in a role that gives her more meat to chew on than something like this usually entails. Bautista, who plays her closest confidant, is once again a scene-stealer, this time going a bit more accented than usual and relying on his great comic timing and action chops.

What's Not-So-Great About this Movie: The struggle with the film is that you can only rely on "cool premise" for so long before you do anything with it. Pearce tries to pepper the script with twist after twist, to the point where they start to become deadening, including a what's meant to the be the emotionally cathartic turn of the entire enterprise that lands with an absolute thud. And this doesn't even register the plot lines that just don't go anywhere, such as one involving a pen that actually has little to no bearing on the narrative itself but occupies far too much of the lead protagonist's time. To wit, if you had told me that Sterling K. Brown was in a completely different film than the rest of the cast, I might believe you. Not only does he really only have a periphery role in the actual conflict within the hotel, but his own quagmire feeling so truncated left me wondering how much of this final cut left scenes in the editing bay. Hotel Artemis, frankly, runs out of gas before it even hits the halfway point, and by that time, it becomes a tedious watch that makes the final stretch...not quite unbearable...but if you find your mind wandering about, you'll have entered my headspace in regard to this cinematic experience. Also, Charlie Day is next-level awful.
Final VerdictHotel Artemis would have been a fascinating short, but even at 90 minutes, it wears out its welcome far too quickly.

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