Hotel Artemis

 

            Los Angeles, 2028.  The thin fabric of gentility which holds us all together has completely torn asunder.  It's rioting and looting and chaos.  Drones are everywhere, but their purpose is malevolent, spying out soft targets.  Water is scarce.  Electricity is intermittent.  The police are constantly besieged, and increasingly outgunned and outmanned.  Society has broken down into warring gangs, with the government in hiding. Fear is a constant presence.  So is despair.

            In the midst of this inferno of hate with no save haven, there is an out-of-the way structure off an alleyway called the Hotel Artemis.  Its proprietor is “The Nurse” (Jodie Foster), who provides a rare clandestine service:  an ER for criminals.  But there are strict rules.  Members only (and they must pass the hand scan to be admitted).  No guns.  No cops.  And no killing other patients:  a “safe zone” for wounded bandits.  And once you're in, you're taken care of in safety and privacy.  The Nurse has all the latest medical technology, including robotic assistants.  She can operate. (She used to be a doctor.)  She can dispense drugs (don't ask where she got them).  If anybody won't adhere to her rules, they're out, and she has an enforcer, Everest (Dave Bautista) to insure that the rules are kept. 

            But there are cracks in the emotional infrastructure of Hotel Artemis, as well.  We discover that The Nurse is still suffering from the loss of her only son to a drug overdose.  Though she spends her time as an angel of mercy for those who need emergency care, she's acerbic and aloof, can't stand compliments, and seeks solace by being alone and listening to old music (like “California Dreamin' by The Mommas and the Poppas, an ironic choice in more ways than one).

            Things are usually hectic and grimy around the Hotel Artemis (sometimes The Nurse will just turn a bloody pillow over and continue to use it), but one night it gets particularly rowdy.  The riots are outside their very doors.  A dangerously attractive woman (Sofia Boutella) checks in the “Nice” suite with a flesh wound, but under false pretenses.  A former neighbor of The Nurse begs her for admittance, except she's a wounded cop.  And The Nurse has never broken her own rules.  And then the real proprietor of the place, a mobster denizen (Jeff Goldblum), shows up wounded, but with an armed gang to “protect” him, also against the rules.

            But in the midst of all this cold-blooded savagery there's some touching tenderness.  A man who checks into the Waikiki suite (Sterling K. Brown) just led a failed heist, but is more concerned about his dying brother than his own wounds.  This Waikiki man also has an obvious connection with the mysterious woman in the Nice suite, though the trash-talking hoodlum in the Acapulco suite (Charlie Day) is oblivious to the mortal danger of either.

            It feels like a Purgatory from which there is no escape, but if you look hard enough, you can find little redemptions, like in the way you treat a stranger, and in the way you choose to conduct yourself with quiet dignity, even through the pain of your horrific regrets.

            Yes, “Hotel Artemis” is gritty and violent.  But it has some soul within a heartless and unforgiving place. Which is just enough humanity to leave us with a little of that rare and precious commodity:  hope.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association