This is a fairly recent one, that I think came and went with out so much as a blip on the radar. I have to wonder if it was one that went straight to DVD. I’m talking about Hotel Artemis (The Ink Factory 2018). This one starred Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, and even had an appearance by Jeff Goldblum (he died a gruesome death). Add to that, it is a cyberpunk movie that seems to been completely ignored when it comes to advertising and such.
Basic story of this, we are in the near future and crime is running rampant. The cops and criminal organizations are at war. We are set up with a great tag line, “No guns, no cops, and no killing the other patients.” Basically, the hotel is supposed to be a bit of a neutral zone where criminals can go to get patched up. The place is a members only hospital and they take it seriously. Part of the group that start off the chain events of the main plot ends up being denied admittance because they don’t have a valid membership. Doesn’t matter that the dude is going to end up dying in the street from either his wounds or the dregs outside taking what they want.
Now here’s the thing, I was only able to watch it the one time recently. I like to watch movies a couple times before I make any kind of judgement on them (not always but most of the time). But I think I picked up enough on the first viewing that I have some thoughts about it. First of them being, I enjoyed the flick. There were a few spots where I think I missed a couple things (which is why I like to watch movies a couple times before I get too in-depth with them).
Now the other thing that is still growing for me with this one is just how cyberpunk the storyline is. And that is a strange one for me right now because there was pretty much nothing to do with cyberspace or computers within the story. Sure they had tech flying about all over the place. There are a number of good movies that fall into cyberpunk that go a similar route (Blade Runner being a great example of this). It’s just that aspect that is throwing me off a little right now because it has been a big mental space for me for a bit.
In a way this is a bit grittier than we expect from the heart of cyberpunk. The flash and posturing of showing off tech and enhancements is replaced with tech that is in the background of how these people are living their lives. You wouldn’t even think of how the hotel might be healing people if they hadn’t mentioned the nano-bots that the Nurse was injecting into a few of the “patients”. Notice I put that in quotes. Main thing is, we as viewers know they are criminals and were doing something nefarious, and the main thing that’s being fixed is bullet wounds. It isn’t a quibble but a part of the fun we have inside the story because the people receiving medical attention are also “members” when we know the reality is they were committing crimes. They pay for the privilege of specialized care with no questions asked about where they were injured and what not.
As we step back from the main story and examine the characters that make up the main interactions through the story, we find that each of them have their own reasons for being at the hotel. I mean aside from the membership aspect of the story. Some of them are vaguely connected via circumstances in play, but at the same time, it is their individual stories that in turn end up breaking the rules of the hotel in some way.
And now I feel like I am attacking this story from a vague perspective. Part of that is because I don’t want to give too much away, because I think this is one worth watching and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. While at the same time, I also think there is enough nuance within the story that it bears a repeat viewing or maybe more to see the interplay from each of the individual parts.
But aside from all of that, my mind still comes back to the idea of how this movie plays into the ideas of cyberpunk. I mean we start with a run where people doing some illicit activities. Sure we don’t have the computer guy in the mix helping with the security systems and what not, but that doesn’t take away from the runners putting themselves deep into something only those crazy enough to risk being killed would do. All for a mysterious mcguffin, that we only see a couple times. The things only purpose within the story is to bring in later plot connections. It doesn’t get much more macguffiny than that.
Anyway, let’s pull this all back together again. See, this is a movie that has been overlooked. The interplay of ideas make for a story that doesn’t feel like the ones we just saw over and over again because Hollywood isn’t bothering with anything new. It is most likely that this approach cost it some market share but in this time of history, that doesn’t matter as much anymore. We are still able to pick such things up on video or stream them. We have some great options when we don’t have an opportunity to see something in the theater.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.