For those of us who grew up with Jodie Foster, the most chilling moment in this half-baked futuristic thriller comes at the beginning when, woken by chaos in the small hours, she rises wearily, wipes her wrinkles and (dear God!) looks her age. Don't @ me. I'm not being ungallant. Squint closer and it becomes clear that creases have been added to make her appear a tad older than she actually is. Phew!
After that terrifying false alarm, the rest of the film seems like a bit of a snooze. It might seem that way anyway. Clocking in at a suspiciously short 94 minutes (not that one would want it longer), Hotel Artemis feels like a rough folly that's been trimmed down to the bare bones by a disappointed studio. It feels like a spin-off from an imaginary larger franchise. It feels like an adaptation of a cult comic you're never going to read.
Never mind what it feels like. What exactly is it? Usually addressed as "The Nurse", Foster plays the proprietor of a posh clinic that – in a time of dystopian chaos – offers medical care to well-heeled gangsters. We begin with a hold-up that goes wrong. The robbers make their way to the titular Art Deco establishment and offer their hacked limbs to our damaged heroine. Others turn up. The increasingly unavoidable Sofia Boutella is an assassin. The reliably loud Charlie Day is a sleazeball. All of them quake when Jeff Goldblum, criminal boss of a city rioting over access to water, arrives with a life-threatening wound of his own.
It hardly needs to be said that the distinguished actors listed above try their very best (Jodie, perhaps, works a little too hard at her Brooklynese). But the project is let down by too many juvenile flourishes and by the madly crowded nature of the narrative. Each character is named – stifle your groans – for the geographical location that’s written on the door of their rooms. So, Day is Acapulco and Goldblum is Niagara. Acting out the fantasy of a governing 13-year-old boy, Boutella produces daggers from her stockings. None of this would be so annoying if there were a lucid plot to distract us.
Unfortunately, the picture is so hurried that it barely has time to introduce each character before the credits come hurtling up the screen.
It surely wasn’t supposed to be this way.