86 Melrose Avenue is a modern take on a hostage movie. Travis (Dade Elza) is an ex-Marine with PTSD. After an incident at home, he winds up at a Los Angeles art gallery. He proceeds to take all the guests hostage and have them confront the traumas of their lives.
It is a worrisome premise that can easily play into pointless histrionics and action movie clichés. 86 Melrose Avenue does an excellent job of focusing on the emotional aspect. This is a wise decision from writer-director Lili Matta. Similar films let fear or anger define their characters.
86 Melrose Avenue is able to provide well rounded characters by providing backstories to each. When decisions are made – even the ones that are part and parcel – it makes sense as to why. Nothing ever comes off as out of character and everything is grounded in experience.
While the characters are engaging, the delivery is not as strong as it could be. There are moments when 86 Melrose Avenue becomes too cliche. Since the plot takes place mainly in one area in a relatively short period of time, there are narrative choices that may come off as too coincidental.
This becomes a little more understandable in the film’s closing moments. 86 Melrose Avenue tackles PTSD, acceptance, and identity, but the main issue is more subtle until it is spelled out explicitly at the very end. It is a sobering shot that will elicit mixed feelings.
Everyone who watches the film will immediately check the accuracy. This makes complete sense being that it is very sobering. That being said, it will also turn some people against the movie. Which may be just as sad.
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