(Caution: Long post ahead!)
I just watched Hotel Artemis and was loving the movie right until the ending. Have you ever seen a movie where it’s obvious the producers/directors just wanted to round up the story arcs as quickly and neatly as possible? Well that’s what this ending felt like and it left me…slightly disappointed.
Anyway, let me get back to that ending I mentioned by discussing the rest of the story.
Ready? Please look away if you don’t want spoilers. You can skip to the end to read how I would have ended the movie. I’ll put a big sign for you so you won’t miss it, okay?
The movie is set in 2028 Los Angeles. There’s a riot going on because California has privatized water and citizens are wrecking up the city in order to get to the company – Clear Water – which controls access to the world’s most precious commodity.
While all that’s going on, we begin the story at a bank heist that doesn’t go as planned. The vault can’t be opened by the manager, so the thieves’ ring leader considers Plan B: rob the customers. Doesn’t sound so smart, but the ring leader – Codename: Waikiki – figures that with the worst riot in years going on, the uber wealthy would send staff to secure belongings in bank vaults.
He was right. What he didn’t plan for was that their escape would end up in a gun fight. Nor that his brother – Codename: Honolulu – would get shot and need medical assistance. Oh, and Honolulu managed to take a fancy looking pen from one of the men at the bank. More on that later.
That’s where Hotel Artemis comes in. We are introduced to it’s ‘nurse’, her assistant and the various patients recovering within its walls. The ‘hospital for gangsters’ is a secure facility set several stories up in a building not far from Clear Water.
There’s a femme fatale character (let’s call her FF) who we soon learn shot herself just so she’d be in place to off her target. She’s got a fancy contact lens in one eye in order to record the event for her client, who ‘will watch it and masturbate to it.’ (Her words, not mine.) Turns out, she and Waikiki have history and while she’s there, her target, AKA The Wolf King rolls up with an injury that needs attention.
The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) arrives and his son, played by Zachary Quinto (a fave from Heroes, the TV show. He also plays young Spock in the current iteration of the Star Trek films. See my review on Star Trek Beyond here) is a wanna-be gangster seeking daddy’s love and approval. Anyway, he isn’t allowed into the hospital per Hotel Artemis rules and has to wait behind a metal gate while his father undergoes surgery.
Sidenote: Remember that pen Honolulu stole at the bank? Well, it turns out it belongs to The Wolf King – ‘the man who runs Los Angeles’. He has a bit of a reputation for killing anyone who steals from him. Waikiki is pissed at his brother and needs to come up with a plan to keep him safe.
Now back to the story – FF shuts down the already inadequate power supply to the building. Result? Honolulu, who was on life support, starts to flat line. The nurse’s tablet device begins to ping forcing her to leave The Wolf King who she was working on to revive her other patient. Despite her efforts, she tells Waikiki there’s nothing more she can do. Based on an earlier conversation he’d had with FF plus his knowledge that a very important person – The Wolf King – was in the building, Waikiki realizes FF is responsible for the power outage and thus, his sibling’s demise.
He goes to shoot her, by which point she’s killed The Wolf King and he almost kills her but they’ve had a previous relationship that makes him pause.
And it’s at this point the story lets me down, bigly.
Yes, there’s a great fight sequence between FF and a bunch of The Wolf King’s men.
Yes, there’s a plot twist involving the relationship between The Wolf King and the nurse. Yes, we see Dave Bautista (aka Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy fame) get crunk and whoop ass.
But, they mess the story up by 1) leaving too many lose ends (I wont spoil them) and 2) tying the story up in a neat bow. (Sounds like an oxymoron, right?)
I wanted John Wick action and a cliff hanger that would make me salivate for a sequel. Didn’t get that. Meh.
And with that said, here’s how I would have ended this movie. If you’ve been avoiding spoilers, please read from here!
Please note: I don’t claim to be a pro. I’m just a fiction writer learning how to be a better story teller. My suggestions stem from that perspective and that alone as I respect how hard it is to create satisfactory stories.
Now, forgive me for not spelling out how the movie actually ends. I strongly suggest you watch it so that my suggestions make some sense.
Here we go:
I wouldn’t have let Honolulu die immediately. Instead, Wakiki should have instructed the nurse to do everything in his power to keep him alive while he goes to stop FF from killing her target.
When Waikiki gets to the Wolf King’s room, I would have kept the mob boss alive. He was a quirky character who could have added brief levity to the scene I have in my head. And it goes like this – Waikiki walks in and is pissed. He doesn’t want FF to kill her target because keeping him alive might just keep his brother alive. Meaning, if bro doesn’t die, a pardon for stealing the very important pen would allow Waikiki and Honolulu to live another day.
In my version of the ending, a fight would have ensued between FF and Waikiki. The Wolf King would have been running asinine commentary in the background.
In the meantime, The Wolf King’s son, would have broken into the hospital and made his way to the room. There, he would kill his father. Why? Because he wants to be the boss! Then, he’d mention he was about to frame FF and Waikiki for the death so he can spin a narrative of avenging his father.
However, the son wouldn’t know about FF’s contact lens. It would have recorded the entire scene. While the son talks nonstop about his plans, something would distract them all (probably the building shaking – that happened a few times in the movie) allowing FF and Waikiki to race to his brother’s room where they learn of the brother’s death. The nurse would learn of the Wolf King’s death and all 3 would need to find a way out.
I would have FF send a message to the web alerting the protesters that the owner of Clear Water (I’d either make The Wolf King an owner or simply trick the protesters into thinking so) is in the building. She’d specify the room and put a picture of The Wolf King’s son on the internet.
That would send rioters rushing into the building while our antiheroes race to get out. Oh and yeah, they’d have The Wolf King’s son and his men on their tail. See the potential for conflict there?
They’d battle their way out by the skin of their teeth and escape to an island in the Pacific somewhere. (Watch the movie to understand the relevance). The Wolf King’s son would clean up nicely for the press and his role as the new majority owner of Clear Water (and mob boss) and announce a reward for any information on the people who killed his father. Just as he readies to mention the names there’d be breaking news – the footage of him killing his father at Hotel Artemis. Guards would whisk him away while the anti-heroes sit back and sip on cocktails with bright, little umbrellas. There’d be a discussion on what to do next and Waikiki would bring out that darn pen and wonder out loud if the gangsters on that island need the services of a Hotel Artemis-like establishment.
Fade to black … and there’s a myriad of potential story lines for the sequel film.
Now, this is just my opinion on how I would have ended the movie. It’s not really a criticism of the film because in many ways, I’m a fan. But, as I mentioned, I’m learning how to be a better storyteller and believe that raising the stakes in the latter end of a story helps create swift pacing, makes the viewer root for the good guys and provides a satisfying ending in a way most Hollywood viewers have come to expect.
And on that note, let me go finish up the last 5000 words of my current project, LegionSworn. I’ll be keeping the things I learned from Hotel Artemis in mind as I do so.
Thanks for reading this long note from me.