‘Alpha Rift’: Eggs, a helmet, and swordplay

When a group of thieves breaking into a vault see a green glowing egg, you know there’s going to be trouble.

“We’re here for the coins, that’s it. Everything else in here can be traced,” their leader says.

Yeah, one of the thieves — Blades (Philip Williams) — is really going to like the egg, and then drop it. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just Faberge, but there’s something mist-like, also green, coming out of the shattered egg. It wants to enter someone, and it picks Blades.

Meanwhile, Nolan (Aaron Dalla Villa) is overseeing free game day at his Tiki Tiki Board Games.

Nolan steps in to explain the rules of a game called The Noblemen when gamesmaster Lewis (Chris Ullrich) is going ubergeek on players.

Basically, it’s 4 helmets that can open the rift to Purgatory and 12 evil demons that are coming. Nolan loves the game, but he doesn’t believe the stuff he’s saying is true. Even if he doesn’t know it yet, it’s obvious that he’s giving us the background for Alpha Rift.

Nolan’s also got a combative relationship with Gabby (Rachel Nielsen), who works at his shop. Even as they’re insulting each other and fighting with foam swords, the people around them see them as a couple, although they don’t see it themselves.

“It is time to bring our young man into the fold,” says Corbin (Lance Henriksen), a mysterious figure who’s been watching all this.

Soon, one of those helmets will arrive at Tiki Tiki. Like Excalibur, it only has an effect on one person. It’s just ordinary headwear when Gabby tries it. When Nolan puts it on, he ends up passing out.

All this is leading to a meeting with Corbin.

“Do you believe in destiny?” Corbin asks Nolan.

Viewers who do will know Corbin’s next question.

“What if I told you The Noblemen were more than a story?”

Nolan’s skeptical at first, but he’s going to come around, as you’d expect.

Writer/director Dan Lantz touches all the bases with Alpha Rift, telling what Lewis calls “the origin story.” Yeah, our game shop heroes are masters of the pop culture reference, and Blades has a pop culture reference guy among his terrified partners in crime as he prepares for the ultimate showdown.

There are a lot of fight scenes, but they don’t run on and on, and they’re spaced well throughout Alpha Rift. You’ll see in the credits that there are a lot of mercs, thugs, and gunmen, as well as stuntpeople, to do the fighting. Lantz also throws in a few zombies.

The fight scenes, often involving swordplay, are laced with Nolan’s exasperation (“Ninjas? Are you freaking kidding me?”) and Gabby’s commentary as a mile-a-minute version of 24‘s Chloe O’Brien, via a headset and a lot of video screens provided by Corbin. Dalla Villa and Nielsen made me laugh out loud a few times with their delivery. They’re practical stunts, giving Alpha Rift a more realistic look than you might expect in a story about a rift to Purgatory.

Henriksen, whose long list of credits includes a surprising number of cartoons along with work like video games, action movies, and TV’s Millennium, plays Corbin as a stern taskmaster who’s skeptical but a little less outwardly hostile toward Nolan than his subordinates are.

Alpha Rift takes a straightforward path toward its story destination, relying on likable leads, well-choreographed action, and geeky attitude to keep viewers entertained.

Alpha Rift is rated PG-13 for fighting and lots of profanity. The movie was filmed in the Philadelphia area.

Actor Aaron Dalla Villa has posted “D20,” a rap video linked to Alpha Rift, on his YouTube channel. The video has around 100,000 views.

Alpha Rift, from Falling Cat Productions, is making its world premiere at the Dances with Films indie cinema festival in Los Angeles. Dances with Films continues through September 12. I’m only virtually in California at the TCL Chinese Theater as I write. IRL, I’m writing from home, since the film has been made available to reviewers. I will post a couple more reviews of Dances with Films selections in the days to come.

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