Movie Review: Active Shooter Seizes Art Gallery at “86 Melrose Ave”

A dinner argument over Middle Eastern politics triggers a Marine vet (Dade Elza) who figures he needs a revolver to settle his dispute with a WEB designer, and shoots him.

The crazed shooter staggers down the street and into an art gallery, taking everyone at an “86 Melrose Ave” photography show opening hostage.

That’s the incredulous premise of this clumsy and atonal thriller, a pokey little flashback-cluttered indie that never remotely gets up a head of steam or amounts to anything.

Writer-director Lili Matta tries to shove a lot into a tepid tale that falls down before it gets up, and staggers into an anti-climax that is dramatic only in the sense that it’s embarrassing to all involved, especially the writer-director.

Travis, the shooter, is a married plumber whose abrupt snap at his wife’s high school pal seems…off. Topping that with a pistol seems insane, as an ex-Marine who works with his hands isn’t likely to figure he needs a gun to snap some tech nerd’s neck like a breadstick.

But “off” is just getting started. The gallery Travis stomps into is run by a gay couple, freshly coked, and features a Lebanese artist (Anastasia Antonia) who left her homeland for “a fresh start for my mind and spirit” away from her “war torn land.”

Naturally, she’s hit on by the only Israeli (Gregory Zarian) to show up for the opening. Her “never happening” rebuffs fall on deaf ears.

There are competing, bickering critics (amateurishly-played) there, and a “collector” for the already-spoken-for gallery owner (Richard Sabine) to flirt with, and a couple of others, all ordered “On the FLOOR” when our active shooter shows up.

As the cops lay siege, Travis fiddles with his pistol and stops and berates each customer in turn, they flash back to a son’s suicide, a therapy session, a traumatic childhood in Lebanon, a heated argument with a parent, and so on.

Travis? He flashes back to his military service, laying out the cause of his PTSD.

The combat flashback is briefly impressive, then hysterically over-the-top. None of the others impress in the least, thanks to unpolished acting and trite dialogue.

There are cringe-worthy flashes of English-as-a-Second-Language screenwriting (Matta is Lebanese-American herself) that sound like blown lines that no one corrected. “Inhabitated?”

And then the story staggers into the most ridiculous police interrogation ever filmed, a pointless third act that one hesitates to label an anti-climax, because that implies there is an actual climax.

There isn’t.

MPA Rating: unrated, bloody violence

Cast: Dade Elza, Anastasia Antonio, Gregory Zarian, Langston Fishburne.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Lili Matta. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:24

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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3 Responses to Movie Review: Active Shooter Seizes Art Gallery at “86 Melrose Ave”

  1. I saw this movie during a film festival because it won awards at other film festivals and although it’s not perfect I thought it was good – solid/interesting story line, intense, beautifully shot scenes and some great acting. The script had depth and the actors (mainly the leads) brought that out. It’s an Indy film, not sure what you expect. It’s a roller coaster of a psychological thriller which I’d recommend. The world is not as black white as you’ve painted it and this movie is definitely worth the time and $.

  2. Enzo says:

    I completely agree. I don’t particularly like thrillers but I found this engaging precisely due to the hidden stories of the characters. It richly makes the point that everyone has a story and demons. Definitely worth watching.

    • Roger Moore says:

      And I know a couple of “investors/relatives of the movie makers” comments when I see them. Nice work, gaming the IMBD “score” on this, but if anybody involved wonders why it got into only “participation trophy”
      film festivals like some of those listed, and why it didn’t get decent distribution, read the review. It’s the most nonsensical “thriller” I’ve seen this year.

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