Writer-director Dan Lantz has crafted a gem of a film with the new fantasy adventure film Alpha Rift. Relatively modest in budget and boundless in imagination, the film follows Nolan (Aaron Dalla Villa), a comic book store owner who discovers the fantasy world he trades on might actually be the real deal when a mysterious package arrives at his store, sending him on a rollicking adventure. Flanked by the gravitas of veteran film icon Lance Henriksen and infused with a certain amount of heart. Alpha Rift rises above its faults to deliver far more good than evil in a fun, 94-minute diversion that screams for a sequel.
After a fun cold open we focus on Nolan who is running a vibrant fan stronghold in the form of a corner comic book store. Alongside him are romantic interest Gabby (Rachel Nielsen), and bestie Lewis (Christopher Ullrich). After Nolan receives a strange delivery in the form of a 1,200-year-old metal helmet, we learn that he might be part of a lineage destined to fight the minions of the underworld. Meanwhile, Blades (Philip N. Williams), a former member of a crime gang, has become possessed by one of their pieces of collateral damage and is after Nolan. Convoluted and silly, Alpha Rift doubles down on the fandom conspiracy fantasy as a reluctant mentor, Vicars (Graham Wolfe), begins to train Nolan for a reality that has since been a mere fantasy. Whisked away to train, Nolan and Gabby reluctantly share a room while their benefactor Corbin (Henriksen) and henchman Vicars barks insults and hopes for greatness.
Will Nolan rise to the occasion? Will he and Gabby realize their romantic connection? Will Vicars finally stop being a jerk? All is revealed in a neat package. Yet this feels like the first chapter of a larger story.
Dalla Villa shines as the plucky, reluctant lead in Alpha Rift. His silly charm makes us believe that a kid under 30 could own a fan safe-spot and make it successful while discovering his destiny. Too Ullrich‘s Lewis is an eccentric yet loyal character that you would hope to find. Nielsen is fine as Gabby, but a lot of her scenes are forced, almost silly in their cheesiness. I think that the least effective bits of her performance were highlighted to the service of the story and the detriment of the film.
Mostly, a credit good or bad must be handed to writer-director Lantz. This is a love letter to fandom, L.A.R.P.ing, and the visceral devotion that so many have. The idea is solid, the story is on point, yet there are minor missteps that hinder the piece from being great. At times, the sore aids, at other times it feels forced. There are scenes that Gabby and Nolan have that ring true, others not so much. As stated though, there is more good than bad here and Alpha Rift is one hell of a ride.
Our advice? Put the helmet on and have some fun. Also, pray for a sequel.
Alpha Rift – 7 out of 10