Having co-written the screenplay for Iron Man 3 and story for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, blockbuster specialist Drew Pearce jack-knives into the world of the low-budget indie character piece for this, his directional debut. At the press show for Hotel Artemis, Pearce loomed from the screen and advised us not to be fooled by its starry cast: this was shot in quick and dirty indie-style and just happens to feature A-listers Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista and Jeff Goldblum (cue sniggers from UK filmmakers resigned to casting their mates, their mum or That Bloke Out of Doctors…)
Ten years into the future, shuffling ex-clinician ‘The Nurse’ (a heavily made-up Jodie Foster) runs an ultra-secret, high-security recuperation facility for underworld operatives that’s disguised as an art deco hotel in riot-strewn downtown LA. Sterling K. Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, and Charlie Day play a pair of bungling robbers and a blowhard arms dealer respectively. Mix in a protocol-smashing stay for an injured cop with a link to The Nurse’s past (Jenny Slate) and a typically scene-stealing appearance from Jeff Goldblum as the criminal overlord who owns the ‘hotel’, and you’re staring down the crosshairs of a stylishly off-beat kookfest.
There’s a pleasingly musty, Luc Besson feel to the roasted rouge hotel interiors and a similarly European (well, Pearce is Scottish) disregard for cosy emotional beats. The snappy dialogue helps defuse the inherent absurdity if a bunch of villains voluntarily incarcerating themselves together, as do some well-choreographed face-offs. Pearce, who has previously directed shorts including the Marvel One-Shot Hail to the King, gets good mileage from his starry cast. Jodie Foster, who spends most of her time behind the camera these days, has a ball as the Nurse and gets most of the best lines, although the innate theatricality of the set-up prevents her from cleanly landing all of the emotional punches the script sets up. Jeff Goldblum rises to the occasion as ever, or rather lies to it, as he spends his typically neurotic cameo flat on his back. For entertainment value, special honours go to Zachary (Kelvin Universe Mr Spock) Quinto as a maniacal hoodlum and a magnetic turn from Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service and soon to be seen in Gaspar Noe’s Climax) as a kick-ass assassin.
Hotel Artemis is futuristic chamber piece a million miles from Pearce’s usual big-budget hunting ground that benefits from its focused scope, top cast, and off-beat concept.
HOTEL ARTEMIS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: DREW PEARCE / STARRING: JODIE FOSTER, SOFIA BOUTELLA, DAVE BAUTISTA, JEFF GOLDBUM, ZACHARY QUINTO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW