What if… the criminal-only Hotel Continental from the movie John Wick had its own criminal-only hospital? Would that hospital even be in the same universe as Mr. Wick and his friends? Hmmmm… well, here’s a movie that answers that question!
It’s Los Angeles in 2048 and the city is in a state of full-scale rioting (again.) Looks like the Angelenos water supply has been cut-off by the political elite, but that’s just the backdrop to our main story(s). After a bank robbery goes awry, mastermind thief Sherman (Sterling K. Brown) and his shot-up brother, Lev (Brian Tyree Henry) hightail it for the Hotel Artemis, an abandoned hotel in mid-town L.A. that’s secretly a shabby, but hi-tech medical care facility run by the harried Jean Thomas, aka Nurse (Jodie Foster, sans make-up and unkempt gray hair). Here, any assassin, thug, or criminal can get illegal, but expert medical attention… provided their membership dues are paid up. Does Kaiser know about this?
In this hotel/hospital, people are given code names to match their penthouse recovery suites, so Sherman is called Waikiki, and his brother, Honolulu. We also meet other patients there, the racist loud-mouth arms dealer, Acapulco (Charlie Day) and the beautiful, but deadly world-traveling assassin, Nice (Sofia Boutella). Along with Nurse Jean, there’s also her faithful assistant & orderly, the hulking Everest (Dave Bautista). But this crazy Wednesday is gonna get even crazier when Jean is informed that the cities most feared mobster, The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum in an extended cameo), is on his way there for some fast medical attention, and his psychotic son, Crosby (Zachary Quinto), is none too pleased that he can’t get in early.
While all this lunacy is going on, there’s trouble brewing inside the Artemis with the ‘guests’, as Nurse Jean goes against her own lengthy laundry list of rules and admits a dying cop (Jenny Slate) for some unknown reason. Rioting outside, unexpected power failures, hidden agendas and secret pasts, and Nurse Jean desperately trying to hold it all together and do her job without going nuts. The explosive ending is capped by a tragi- cally bad finale that is questionable to say the least.
Written by Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3), this is also his directorial debut and he shows that he’s got a great feel for the big screen, even though he’s been directing TV shows and video shorts you never heard of. The story, while striking a familiar and clichéd chord with the John Wick franchise, holds up if only because of the stellar cast. Sure, we’ve seen the usual high-tech computer stuff in every sci-fi movie around (robotic medical gear, 3-D printed human parts, etc), but this movie has it take a back-seat to the story; a solid character study into the lives (however limited) that is made richer by Foster, Brown, Day, Boutella, and Bautista.
Jodie Foster, looking old, disheveled, and needing a nap, acts the hell outta this movie, going toe-to-toe with Sterling K. Brown, who gives another stunning performance, even when he didn’t need to. Comedic Charlie Day goes against type and is SO mean-spirited you root for his death, and Boutella oozes with her killer charm. Bautista has a nice nuanced role as he spouts, “I’m a health care provider”, then beats the crap out of someone one minute, and cares for the sick another. Even Goldblum does justice to his small role, something you don’t often see in this kind of film.
The biggest disappointment was that infernal climax! It was as if Pearce couldn’t figure out HOW to properly end his movie and tie up the loose ends, so he just jotted something down on a piece of paper and then shot it. It just didn’t work – at all – but up until then, this movie is gloriously quirky, fun, darkly humored, and just the thing to see on a Saturday afternoon with that $17 tub of popcorn. But try ignore that ending, okay?
Enter Dr. Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant), an E.R. doctor in NYC who comes across a strange patient: a homeless man suffering weird symptoms, has strange surgical markings and a bizarre medical I.D. bracelet from a hospital that doesn’t exist. After he dies, Guy investigates, but his attempts yield even stranger results. All records have disappeared and he’s told by his superiors to drop the case. Why? He can’t let this go and continues to look into it, but his personal and professional life get attacked.
His home is ransacked, he’s arrested for cocaine (planted), and then he’s fired. In desperation, Guy manages to get help from homeless man Teddy (Andre DeShields) who leads him to an underground subway shelter where he learns the ugly, horrible truth. Homeless people are being kidnapped up by an unscrupulous doctor for his gruesome and unsanctioned experiments on curing spinal paralysis. Once Guy finds out, Dr. Myrick attempts to sway Guy into joining his team, telling him that these people are heroes and losing one (okay, maybe hundreds) to save millions is worth the sacrifice.
Guy kinda-sorta agrees, but admits that he’s still a murderer. But before any decision is reached, a rogue FBI named Agent Frank Hare (David Morse) bursts in and kills Dr. Myrick by accident. Uh-oh! After all the smoke has settled and Guy has been exonerated, he gets a surprise. Mrs. Myrick shows up with all her late husbands files regarding his crazy research and gives it to Guy telling him, “My husband was trying to do a good thing, but in the wrong way”. Guy opens the package, views the materials, and proceeds towards the neurology building where he is now working. Will he continue down Myrick’s path or… ?
Based on Michael Palmer’s novel, the adapted screenplay by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) is a nice little thriller, directed by ace director Michael Apted. The problem here is in the casting of Hugh Grant. Yeah, he’s great as a bumbling, fumbling love-struck Brit who’s comically trying to get the girl, but as a serious doctor who’s life in serious danger and playing a sleuth as well? Ahhh… no. That ain’t happening. Hackman is great as always, as are supporting players Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Nunn, and J.K. Simmons.