Capsule Review – Alpha: The Right to Kill (Sydney Film Fest 2019)


An intense, if overly familiar crime drama from director Brillante Ma Mendoza about the drug war in the Philippines. Similar to the premise of Erik Matti‘s action crime flick BuyBust, Mendoza eschews genre thrills for a more grittier approach.

Adopting a documentary-esque approach to the storytelling and slamming on the messages of social realism and a scathing message on police corruption and how crime works both ways, the film sounds like it should work.

Unfortunately, the characterizations are thin (even when the lead actors try their best) and the familiar narrative and predictable story beats let the film down, as one can easily see what will happen from beginning to end. On the plus side, there are certain thrills in the action scenes, due to the technical proficiency by Mendoza, as well as the cinematography, the propulsive musical score the rip-roaring sound design.

Overall, Alpha: The Right to Kill is not a bad film, but it is one that is less than the sum of its parts.


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