Most genre films have an oddball character or two thrown in for color. An eccentric specialist or secretive fixer, they pop into the story for a bit, perform a difficult task, possibly while delivering a staccato monologue, and then disappear. "I'd like to see a movie that's just about THEM," one occasionally thinks. Hotel Artemis is that movie, and it's just as good as it sounds.
The ensemble of eccentrics on offer are the clientele and staff of the titular hotel—an exquisitely dilapidated art-deco section of an otherwise abandoned building in the middle of a cyberpunk-y, riot-filled, near-future Los Angeles. The staff consists of a fast-talking shut-in mob doctor, the Nurse (Jodie Foster), and her enormous orderly, Everest (Dave Bautista, enormous).
The guests, of which there can be only four, include a conflicted bank robber in a beautiful suit, Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown); a glamorous French assassin, Nice (Sofia Boutella, as required by law); and a shitbird arms dealer, Acapulco (Charlie Day, delivering a performance somewhere between Joe Pesci and Rizzo the Rat).
The ostensible plot hooks here are (1) who will fill the Artemis's last bed as the riot approaches, and (2) the imminent arrival of the hotel's ruthless mob boss owner, the Wolf King of Malibu (Jeff Goldblum, who is often miscast as characters who are not named "The Wolf King of Malibu").
But Hotel Artemis is more of a loose game of pool than a tightly wound clock, content to bounce its characters off of one another and see what happens. While it shares a few conceits with the similarly veneered John Wick, Hotel Artemis places its emphasis squarely on character and world-building, with only a few action sequences sprinkled in.
Like all great hotel movies, from Psycho to The Hateful Eight, this one is about the thrill of strangers in a unfamiliar place trying to figure each other out. In focusing on that, Artemis justifies spending time in a weird, fun world—a world that's usually only briefly visited by conventional protagonists.