Movie Review: The Shifting Power Dynamics of a hook-up on “Zero Avenue”

As “pick-ups” go, it’s odd and “classic New York” at the same time.

He’s spotted her entering a cafe. He follows her in and starts with a spiel — “first time in New York,” “left my bag on the train,” etc.

She’s skeptical, on her guard, and sarcastic.

“Where are you from, 1985?

He calls her “beautiful,” backpedals into “not objectifying you.” Off-putting or charming? It’s hard to decide.

But something tells her to lead him where he needs to go. When that turns out to be upstairs, to her apartment in a hotel, we think we’ve got it.

Dominatrix? Sex worker? Role playing?

“What’s your name?” “I haven’t DECIDED yet.”

And snce the opening titles of “Avenue Zero” have faintly sinister incantations about saffron in them, we sense that something supernatural is coming. Vampires? Demons?

Rarely has a thriller started with more intriguing power dynamics — a shifting “Who’s playing whom?” puzzle — only to utterly abandon its mystique as it gives up its secrets.

An economical indie — basically a two-hander with a single set, and fantasy flashbacks that look more stage theatrical than soundstage-set — this Daniel Frei film, scripted by co-star Braeson Herold, is thin on explaining its characters, heavy on cryptic monologues and agrammatical declarations.

“Saffron cleanses the soul from impurities!” Oh? And it’s “of” not “from.”

The leads — Herold plays Joshua, Allison Siko is “Veronica,” the sex worker — click well enough. But her professional caution flies out the door the minute she stops counting red flags about this “John” whose response to “birthday” sex is bleeding out of his eyes. There’s no buying in to her suddenly discovering she “cares.”

The third act is nonsense contrived to deliver the Big Reveal, which is neither big nor revealing.

And all this talk about the magical/dangerous powers of saffron had me craving Paella Valenciana.

Rating: unrated, violence, sexual situations, blood

Cast: Braeson Herold, Allison Siko

Credits: Directed by Daniel Frei, scripted by Braeson Herold. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:18

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
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.