The Hotel Artemis is a Cyberpunk Street Sanctuary for Shadowrunners
In a near future Los Angeles stands the Hotel Artemis, a sanctuary for criminals with a full-service nurse . . . for members only, of course. Things go unexpectedly wrong for a group of crooks when riots break out during a heist. Packing futuristic tech, they make their way to the Artemis and to sanctuary, or so they think.
What follows is a situation more commonly referred to as a “powder keg” as the nurse and hotel enforcer (Jodie Foster & Dave Bautista) take in various misfits in need of help. It quickly becomes clear that everyone has their own agendas that brought them the hotel. Some involve other guests, despite the anonymity provided by the hotel (similar to the nicknames in Reservoir Dogs, the guests are only called by the name of the suite they are staying in).
Waikiki has a brother and partner in the heist gone wrong and needs medical help. But the pair discover that what they stole puts them in mortal danger at the hotel. as Nice (Sofia Boutella) is an assassin who only kills important people, while Acapulco (Charlie Day) is a gun runner . . . and an asshole.
Breaking The Rules of Cyberpunk
At first, it feels like maybe Hotel Artemis is just another action flick set in a futuristic, John Wick-ian hotel of assassins. As the film progresses, though, it becomes clear that beneath the action there is a larger narrative taking place surrounding “the rules.”
Each character has internalized their rules, whether imposed by the world at large or their sub-culture(s). In the case of the nurse and Everest, the rules are a boot on their neck. Originally, the rules seemed to be in place to keep them safe. At least, it’s a fair assumption based on how each of them recites the Hotel Artemis’ rules like a mantra, believing that if a rule is broken the whole place would fall apart. But really, these rules are the thing they clutch onto to maintain their sanity. As the world around them is devolving and breaking apart in riot, so too are the characters being stripped bare.
THE RULES OF CYBERPUNK 2020 1) Style over Substance. 2) Attitude Is Everything. 3) Always Take It to the Edge. 4) Break the Rules.
The primary throughline of the movie is also the reason I think it’s cyberpunk: the tearing down of these rules and how important they are to the story. Sometimes, the rules are broken in order to do the right thing, despite immediate and deadly consequences. Other times, it’s in order to contribute to the ties that bound them in the first place. Societal structures are being ripped down everywhere you look outside of the Hotel Artemis, but inside, it’s a much more human and grounded struggle reflective of the larger one.
The most surprising thing about the movie is the nurse’s story, which gradually unfolds as visitors arrive and reveal more of her past. While not a movie that is particularly intelligent, it does break from the expected formula and roots it in an emotional place that becomes a lens for the other guests to view their own lives and perspectives. It becomes clear that change will come to people they know. There comes a moment for all of the characters to choose whether to follow the rules or not; their choices form the most interesting aspects of the story.
Hotel Artemis is a gorgeous movie with a great cast, awesome technology, effects, and it does more work than the simple action flick it initially appears to be. I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I’d expected.