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A tight debut

Jodie Foster in Hotel Artemis.

Jodie Foster in Hotel Artemis.

Hotel Artemis
4 stars
Director: Drew Pearce
Stars: Jodie Foster, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista
Duration: 94 mins
Class: 15
KRS Releasing Ltd

Hotel Artemis is an intense and intriguing little movie whose main character is known simply as Nurse (played by the ever-dependable Jodie Foster). Nurse runs the hotel in question, although the Artemis is certainly no ordinary hotel.

Situated in the heart of Los Angeles, the once-proud hotel now serves as a high-tech, clandestine hospital for criminals who can afford to be treated there. It is the year 2028, and the world seems to have arrived at the place it is clearly heading for right now. LA is a hotbed of violent activity as citizens protest for the basic right of clean water and the police brutally keep them at bay. Oh, and Trump’s border wall is up…

Yet, Nurse is less concerned with the outside world than what is going on in her inner sanctum. For it’s a particularly busy night – Sherman Atkins (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother Lev (Brian Tyree Henry) have just emerged from a severely botched bank heist, and Lev is seriously injured.

Nurse has just treated an enigmatic assassin (Sofia Boutella) and a smarmy arms dealer (Charlie Day) and turns her attention to Lev when a phone call comes in. She is ordered to drop everything she is doing to prepare for the arrival of the mob boss known as Wolfking (Jeff Goldblum). She can’t refuse him – he owns the hospital after all.

Yet, while she makes the necessary preparations to cater for her assorted patients, Nurse has no idea that things are going to get more than usually bloody, upsetting the smooth operation she has been running for years. And the unexpected appearance of someone from her past only adds more fuel to the fire.

The directing debut of screenwriter Drew Pearce is a tight, taut, tense piece of LA noir set in a relatable future inspired by current news events (the infamous wall; the California water crisis; and 3D-printed guns). It’s an atmospheric piece that eschews unnecessary violence.

That’s not to say it’s not bloody – when the going gets rough, the tough get shooting, stabbing, and more – but Pearce’s ultimate aim is to tell a fascinating story through his inimitable protagonist.

An atmospheric piece that eschews unnecessary violence

Grey-haired, wrinkled, weary of expression and slow of gait, Nurse has a mind as sharp as a tack, and she is armed with the medical and surgical skills of a pro. She has a job to do: her patients are precious to her and, as long as they follow the rules, they will get the best treatment. She runs the facility with an iron fist.

In a career that started when she was three, the 55-year-old Foster has never shied away from tackling multi-faceted, fascinating and flawed characters and she can now add Nurse to her impressive biography. A tough, no-nonsense person on the surface, she has to nurse her own internal wounds while plagued by the memories of happier times long ago that ended in tragedy.

Foster plays the Nurse’s various sides with consummate ease, imbuing her with equal parts compassion, strength and a healthy dose of droll humour.

She is given able support by the ensemble, especially Brown as the weary Sherman who is all too aware of the inescapable realities of his life; and there’s also Dave Bautista as Nurse’s trusty aide Everest.

Kudos also to the production design team for generating the shadowy mood that prevails inside this once magnificent art deco structure. Its past glamour evidenced by the faded murals and elegant and muted lampshades despondently give way to the state-of-the-art medical facilities on its penthouse floor. Patients are offered recovery time and a safe haven in its luxury suites – named after some exotic places worldwide (Nice, Acapulco, Niagara – names also taken by their occupants to preserve their anonymity).

It has a strong sense of history – not only going back to its incarnation as a leisure resort, but also in its role as clinic to the criminals.

“This hospital has been here for 22 years,” says Nurse. Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn more about it, the life she led there, the criminals who have passed through its corridors? Netflix take note… what a great idea for a series!

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