Hotel Artemis is a confused comedy-thriller that lacks a coherent story but still delivers a blood-lust quenching gut-punch of dystopian violence porn.

At the start of the long lead screening of Hotel Artemis, writer-director Drew Pearce told us the film was, at heart, an indie thriller. Ignore the A-list cast including Jeff Goldblum, Jodie Foster and Zachary Quinto, and he might have a point. The film was clearly staged within a small set. It takes place in the dark hallways of Hotel Artemis in downtown Los Angeles, and ventures outside only as far as the roof and the surrounding alleyways.

Hotel Artemis follows ten people over the course of one evening. Set in a hotel-hospital catering exclusively for registered, paid up members of the criminal elite, the story takes place within a dystopian Los Angeles, beset by riots in response to the privatisation of water. It’s only 2028, but things have really taken a turn for the worst.

At just an hour and a half, Hotel Artemis leaves precious little time for story and character development. Using their hotel-approved codenames, assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella) and burglar Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) share some sort of history, although the depth and details are kept pretty under wraps, while the father-son relationship of Crosby Franklin (Quinto) and Niagara (Goldblum) follows the daddy-why-don’t-you-love-me trope shared between a big-shot gangster and his wannabe son. Turns out Waikiki finds himself in possession of some high-value goods stolen from the Wolf King, Niagara, and the race is on to get out of the hospital before he comes back to claim them.

Each of the hotel’s inhabitants are looked after by The Nurse (Jodie Foster), who fell from grace after falling into alcoholism following the death of her son and now runs the hospital for the criminal underworld. In ten years time we’ll be 3D printing livers and new hearts, apparently. With all this tech to distract her, the memory of her son’s overdose is brought back into the fore with the arrival of a secretive cop (Jenny Slate).

 

With so many story arcs in Hotel Artemis, the film struggles for a central theme so much so that all of them may as well have been discarded with altogether. Without the need or desire to root for any character, the story is itself simply a mask for what is in essence a gut-punch of dystopian violence porn. Throw in some comical one-liners from Dave Bautista as Everest, the ‘healthcare professional’ come club bouncer, neon lights, nostalgic, 60s hippie tracks and poor fashion choices, and you’ve got yourself a quirky thriller that doesn’t quite know how dark it wants to be.

★★★☆☆

Hotel Artemis is out in cinemas on 20 July.