Thursday, April 22, 2021

86 Melrose Avenue Review: A Large Diverse Hostage Situation

Release date: April 20, 2021
Running time: 84 minutes
Written and Directed By: Lili Matta
Starring: Dada Elza, Jim O'Heir, Anastasia Antonia, Gregory Zarian, Terri Ivens, Langstone Fishburne, Michael Polak, Andy Evans, Richard Sabine, Helen Kennedy, and Gary Sturm 

A diverse group of people at a gallery opening is taken hostage by an ex-Marine suffering with PTSD and forced to confront their cultural differences, their pasts, and their looming mortality as time ticks away.

86 Melrose Avenue has an exciting start that lets you know where this hostage film is going.  It starts with the hostage situation, then goes back to fill in the backstory.  It lets you know that this is going to be a tense situation.  The film also has a large, diverse cast, which is a nice touch for an indie film.  The cast of characters is impressive and each has a backstory that gives them their own perspective on this overall situation.  I did like how each character had a very different backstory and relationship with violence.  And the story of this film throws you for a few loops, continuing the journey in unexpected ways in a few instances. 

However, the problem with 86 Melrose Avenue is that the central conflict feels contrived.  It escalates too quickly, with a character change occurring so abruptly that it just feels unrealistic.  And that character goes from someone who appears to care about other people to someone who then causes harm and uses derogatory terms; it just felt like such a shift that it was not believable.  And this led me to not feel much sympathy for him.  The movie tries to connect his turn to previous events, but this fell flat for me.  That is not to say that the acting was bad.  Overall, the acting was good with a few lines that had forced delivery; but the story and characters just did not connect with me.  

The film tried to incorporate a cycle of violence and surprising revelations, but the overall situation hurt my connection to the characters.  And the backstory sections felt like quick flashes rather than fully developing the characters.  Some of the stories were interesting and others again felt contrived.  That being said, the movie did take place in multiple locations with both a diverse cast and diverse locales, something that is surprising for an indie film.  And although the film bills itself as an action movie, there really isn't much action.  It is more of a hostage situation with limited actual action and lots of conversation.  But if you do stay for the entire film, it does have some interesting story shifts and ties up some of the plot threads in the end.

86 Melrose Avenue has a large, diverse cast and complex backstory, but the underlying situation did not have the emotional impact that I expected. 

Pass on it.

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86 Melrose Avenue is available digitally and on demand on April 20, 2021. 

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