Graham Wolfe Vicars and Aaron Dalla Villa in ALPHA RIFT | ©2021 Vertical Entertainment

Graham Wolfe and Aaron Dalla Villa in ALPHA RIFT | ©2021 Vertical Entertainment

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Lance Henriksen, Aaron Dalla Villa, Rachel Nielsen, Philip Williams, Graham Wolff, Chris Ullrich, Allyson Malandra, Chris James Boylan
Writer: Dan Lantz
Director: Dan Lantz
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Release Date: November 19, 2021

ALPHA RIFT has more ambition than budget. This creates some obvious challenges, but at the start, it has a certain charm.

For a while, ALPHA RIFT plays like a combination of HIGHLANDER Extra-Lite and THE LAST STARFIGHTER. It opens with two men in medieval full-head helmets, one in a duster coat no less, engaging in a serious swordfight on a big-city street. They are tracked by what looks like a SWAT team (it’s not). The sword glows green when one combatant is impaled.

All this is under the opening credits. We’re therefore primed to expect a lot more action. After all, if this is what we’re being shown while we’re taking in who made the movie, imagine what will happen once our full attention is engaged. But that’s not how it works out.

A title informs us that it’s now fifteen years later. When thieves break into a room where priceless artifacts are stored, one breaks an orb. It releases glowing green energy that flows into one of the men, Blades (Philip Williams), kills another, and ignores the third (Chris James Boylan).

Then we’re at the Tiki-Tiki comic book store, where gamer Lewis (Christopher Ullrich) is angrily explaining to some cowed customers that the “Alpha Rift” can only be opened by the nobleman who has captured the Devil’s Apostle first.

Twenty-something store manager Nolan Parthmore (Aaron Dalla Villa) and fellow employee Gabby (Rachel Nielsen) take over the discussion. Beginning in the Dark Ages, four noblemen were charged with protecting the world from the Devil’s Apostles, twelve immortals that possessed the bodies of mortal men. The magical helmets of the noblemen allow them to send the Devil’s Apostles (who wear horned helmets) to the Alpha Rift, a purgatory where they are trapped. If and when a Devil’s Apostle escapes the Alpha Rift, it is the duty of the heirs of the nobleman to re-imprison the evil spirit.

ALPHA RIFT movie poster | ©2021 Vertical Entertainment

ALPHA RIFT movie poster | ©2021 Vertical Entertainment

As giant blobs of exposition go, this one works in terms of placement and delivery. This is pretty much how someone would explain the basics of a D&D-type game. Nolan of course thinks it is just a game, while Lewis believes Alpha Rift is real.

Lance Henriksen is now at the mansion where the burglary happened. He says it’s time to bring young man into fold. He has a nobleman’s helmet. Guess who turns out to be right? And guess who turns out to be a nobleman’s heir?

We’re in familiar but not unpleasant territory so far. Then the guardians of the noble legacy, headed up by Corbin (Lance Henriksen), collect Nolan and insist that he train to fulfill his destiny. Gabby, understandably concerned that her friend is being kidnapped by lunatics, insists on tagging along.

And then we have a strangely extended training/arguing section. This isn’t the part of the adventure where our hero has to learn how to use his powers, this goes on for so long that it seems to be an end in itself. It’s unclear if the filmmakers wanted to make a sitcom-style comedy about a reluctant mystical savior, or if the budget required them to shoot much more dialogue than action.

Either way, Nolan keeps making wisecracks and resenting how he’s being pushed by trainer Vicars (Graham Wolff), while Corbin keeps reiterating why it matters that Nolan take on this burden, well after both he and we should have gotten the point. In real life, someone in Nolan’s unique position might in fact require as many pep talks as he gets here, but in a fantasy action movie, it feels redundant.

ALPHA RIFT does eventually get to where we expect it to go, but by then, it’s lost some good will in its methodology. It’s also a little uncomfortable seeing white good guys talking about noble bloodlines while fighting a Black bad guy. Granted, Blades is just possessed – the actual bad guy seems to be green – and loyal if physically ineffectual Lewis is also Black, but this aspect isn’t an asset.

The performers are game, especially Dalla Villa, Nielsen, Ullrich, and Wolff, who approach the material with enthusiasm.

In the end, ALPHA RIFT comes off as a sort of experiment in homage. We can see the appeal of the overall concept, while we wonder if finances or creative vision explains its primary issues.

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