HOTEL ARTEMIS (3 stars)
PLOT In a disintegrating Los Angeles, several strangers check into a hospital reserved for criminals only.
CAST Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum
RATED R (strong violence and bloodshed)
BOTTOM LINE Borrows heavily from “John Wick,” but this action-fantasy has a noirish personality all its own.
In Drew Pearce’s “Hotel Artemis,” set in the year 2028, the world has gone to heck and Los Angeles is the handbasket, an urban wasteland where the cops are dirty and the masses are revolting. No wonder the Hotel Artemis — actually a hospital that caters to criminals — is thriving. Run by world-weary nurse Jean Thomas (Jodie Foster), the Artemis functions because it has rules: No smoking, no fighting and, most important, no cops.
“Hotel Artemis,” the movie, also has an important rule: No thinking.
Break that rule and you’ll start asking questions. First and foremost: Have the creators of “John Wick,” featuring the criminals-only Continental Hotel, voiced any objections? Why would Jodie Foster choose a cartoonish pulp fantasy for her first proper lead performance in more than a decade? (2007’s “The Brave One” was her last.) Why does this movie open with riots over drinking water — then never mention the issue again?
“Hotel Artemis” certainly has its flaws, but on the whole it’s a thoroughly entertaining and very well-crafted movie. At its heart is a trio of hotel guests: Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) as the soft-spoken bank robber Waikiki; Charlie Day as the high-strung arms-dealer Acapulco; and Sofia Boutella as a sultry assassin named Nice. (Patients are referred to by their room names, all vacation-themed.) Soon, they’ll be joined by a fearsome crime lord known as the Wolfking (Jeff Goldblum). Meanwhile, Nurse Thomas wavers between deep concern (Foster looks older even than her 55 years here) and gallows humor. Dave Bautista plays to his strengths as her hulking orderly, Everest.
The movie’s real star, though, is the location. Inspired by L.A.’s semilegendary Alexandria Hotel (a decrepit grande dame that appeared in David Fincher’s “Se7en” before succumbing to the luxury apartment craze), the Artemis is a stunningly detailed creation, filled with Tiffany-style lamps, Deco signage and evocatively peeling wallpaper. Cannily, even the futuristic medical equipment looks old and faded. High praise goes to production designer Ramsey Avery, without whom we might not believe in this movie as much as we do.
A somewhat ragged plot suggests that Pearce is still honing his skills as an auteur. (He was a writer on “Iron Man 3” and many others; this is his first feature as a director.) “Hotel Artemis” is an impressive start, though. Nurse Thomas’ brief mention of a similar spot called the Apache, in Las Vegas, sounds like an inviting sequel.