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Is Hotel Artemis a John Wick homage or a rip-off?

It’s already hard to remember how little anticipation there was when 2014’s John Wick opened. It looked like yet another dour revenge movie in Mad Max “you killed my family, prepare to die” mode, except this time with Keanu Reeves avenging his dead puppy. Then the film came out and it rightly became a slow-burn hit based on its stylish fights, memorable cinematography, and above all, its compelling look into a classy criminal underworld, as revealed through a thoroughly civilized hotel, heavily regulated and catering to contract killers. That same idea is at the center of Hotel Artemis, a dystopian-future action movie set for American release on June 8th. The first trailer feels a bit like a recut version of John Wick, with a completely different celebrity cast, headlined by Jodie Foster as the woman running the hotel.

It’s not that John Wick has any sort of monopoly on the idea of a criminals-only hotel. It’s just that Hotel Artemis feels suspiciously similar in an awful lot of the details, from the hotel’s lengthy list of rules and global ban on fighting to the grim, desaturated feel of the story and the stylized fight sequences. And the action portrayed here, as an orderly system breaks down and the criminals turn on each other, also seems remarkably familiar. If first-time feature director Drew Pearce (creator-producer of the 2008 British superhero series No Heroics, and a writing collaborator on films like Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation) wanted this film to stand out from John Wick, why specifically style the place as a hotel, when the trailer makes it clear that it’s a hideout, a hospital, and possibly various other things starting with H? The kindest answer is that the film is a conscious homage. (Not entirely unlikely, since plenty of fans wanted to see more of John Wick’s underground world, and John Wick: Chapter 2 only partially paid off that appetite.) The less-kindly answer is that it’s blatant copycatting.

Still, it’s worth remembering that before John Wick came out, it was widely seen as yet another rip-off of the wildly successful Liam Neeson revenge movie Taken, and yet it established very different parameters and became a success in its own right. It remains to be seen whether Hotel Artemis can do the same. One vote in favor: the specific cast, which also includes Sterling K. Brown (This is Us), Sofia Boutella (Star Trek: Beyond), Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Charlie Day (Pacific Rim: Uprising), Jenny Slate (Obvious Child), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek), and especially Jeff Goldblum as someone called “The Wolf King.” If the film gives him as much room to ham it up as a near-future bad guy as this trailer does, John Wick: Chapter 3 may have some competition on the screen.


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