Max Fist (Joe Manganiello) is a hero – superhero according to some – from another dimension. Buy him a drink, and he will dejectedly tell the story of being pushed into our world by his archenemy, where he is left with no powers.
Burgeoning video journalist Hamster (Skylan Brooks) sees Max as his ticket to the big time. Here is a massive, hulking man with a story that is almost designed to go viral. It’s well worth the price of a bottle of cheap whiskey.
Hamster’s sister Indigo (Zone Griggs) is having less luck. Running an errand for drug lord The Manager (Glenn Howerton sleazing it up like only he can), things go awry during a money pickup. Instincts kick in, and Indigo realizes she can take hundreds of thousands of dollars and make a run for it.
This all takes place during Archenemy’s first act, and while it is an interesting setup, the first thirty minutes are also a bit of a slog. Fitting the main elements into about half the time would probably have worked just fine. Things pick up when The Manager figures out what Indigo has done and sends two of his goons to take her and Hamster out. Max intervenes and deals with the flunkies very much like a superhero would. Maybe Max isn’t a schizophrenic addict after all?
From there, we follow the trio trying to figure out how to deal with The Manager and his mysterious boss. Max is violent and cranks up with methamphetamine, which very well could be the source of any strength he still has. Or?
Archenemy is Adam Egypt Mortimer’s follow-up to Daniel Isn’t Real, one of last year’s greats. Much like Archenemy, it delved into our perceptions of reality while still playing as a straight genre movie. The balance worked well.
For all intents and purposes, Archenemy successfully follows Daniel’s formula. The themes are similar. While this is a deconstructed superhero movie, it’s still a movie that isn’t ashamed of its roots.
Things do, as mentioned, pick up during the second act, but maybe a bit too much so. There are hard cuts between action-packed scenes that make it hard to determine if what we are watching is sequential, flashbacks, or if there is some sort of dream logic at play. It’s somewhat jarring, but not enough so that it gets in the way of an otherwise enjoyable movie.
Because Archenemy is entertaining. Mortimer has created a weird, believable world which looks gorgeous through its dirt and grit. The cinematography is of a high caliber.
The characters, too, have enough depth to be at least a scooch more interesting than superhero tropes. There is a backstory for Hamster and Indigo that easily could be explored in a second movie. The cast does a great job, particularly Paul Scheer making a great appearance as the unstable Krieg.
There are pacing and flow problems, but Archenemy is, in the end, fascinating. It is as strange of a movie as one would expect the follow-up to Daniel Isn’t Real to be. If nothing else, it’s worth watching as another step in Mortimer’s journey to what likely will be something larger than his current indie stardom.
Archenemy was produced by SpectreVision, making this the fourth movie we’ve covered from Elijah Wood’s production studio. The rest:
- Color Out of Space
- Daniel Isn’t Real
- Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss by Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh