Shortfilm Review: ALPHA (2017)

A trio of shortfilms are priming for a festival screening this Saturday June 24 at the Plaza Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. Ryan Monolopolous's dystopian action sci-fi, Alpha will be one of them and while nothing short of a worthy treat for action fans who love a good fight flick.

The project is the fifth and latest narrative short film from Buffalo-born Monolopolous who has since grown into one of the most purely productive up-and-comers in his field. What you get on footage in all surety is reflection of that tenacity here with Monolopolous joined by Jake Guinn and Josh Flaugher as three black site test experiments partaking as the elitist of the elite in a deadly and brutal supersoldier program led by a mad scientist, played by David Sisson.

With a ten-minute duration sans closing credits, Alpha runs as a top-to-bottom, action-packed thriller with an almost horror-esque tinge that would even win John Hyams's approval. Alpha sets the tone accordingly with frenetic imagery depicting the gruesome and maddening underworld and psychosis of soliders willing to undergo nightmarish transformations in service of a ubiquitous, larger purpose instilled by the program.

A full-on brawlfest ensues among our cast amid an unforgiving display of fists, feat, and Escrima with sticks, knives and a briefcase at their disposal. Monolopolous and Guinn are behind the blistering choreography with equal performances that are fast, kinetic and brutal next to Flaugher's towering, brooding mien.

The running gun battle that kicks it all off lands our three in abandoned brick setting where the crux of the fights are contained takes place. The atmosphere here services the action nicely for Alpha, coupled with black and white lensing with only a few colors scantly fleshed out invites a certain look and appeal without hampering the action, fitting the grim tone almost perfectly. Cinematographers Liam Day and Jeremy Cournyea are exceptional behind the lens.

Taking certain noteworthy and recognizable cues from other similar sci-fi, Alpha definitely has something going for itself. I wouldn't be surprised if someone with the necessary clout decided to have a sit-down with Monolopolous about fleshing this out more for its own 10x10 webseries in the vein of Luc Besson's Playground at Blackpills, because the concept here is a certainly a viable one, and with the right backing, cast and producer muscle for either a series or a feature film expansion, personally I wouldn't hesitate catching either treatments in the least.

This is actually my first viewing of any of Monolopolous's work since Alpha caught my attention last summer. On that note, I would love to see what this filmmaker can do with a proper budget and the right script, cast and crew in his corner, because at best, Alpha is nothing short of an appetizer deserving of an audience, a director and actor that action fans will come to discover as a force to be reckoned with.


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