Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer
Starring: Joe Manganiello, Skylan Brooks, Zolee Griggs
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: Hamster is an aspiring journalist grinding to escape his rough neighbourhood for a better life. When hamster comes across the infamous drunkard by the name of Max Fist, he takes an interest in his fantastical story of other worlds where Max was the guardian with superpowers. Meanwhile, hamster’s sister, Indigo, falls foul of her drug dealer boss, putting the siblings in danger and giving Max a new sense of purpose.
After Daniel Isn’t Real blew me last year I couldn’t have been more excited to see director, Adam Egypt Mortimer’s next film. Archenemy sees the upcoming director collaborate again with one of the best studios for creative horror films, Spectrevision, for a unique a gritty take on the superhero genre. Superhero films have been dominating the box office for the past decade, well at least before Covid, so any fresh take with an R rating is a welcome surprise, even if Deadpool and Logan got there first. Much of the caped crusader genre covers some form of social commentary, but few feel connected at ground level where the true decay of a community is on full display, the grey area or where the actual black triumphs over white.
Archenemy works within the thin line of fantastical and the true grit of a dysfunctional society that many find themselves within. Comic book heroes might be the perfect example of escapism, but that tramp on the corner will still be there when you wake up; the drug epidemic crippling the community remains whether someone can fly, punch through walls, or seek justice. It’s this matter-of-fact viewpoint that sets Archenemy apart from its high budget contemporaries.
Much praise is to be given to the central performances, but Joe Manganiello stands out with a physical and enveloping role that calls into question the entire film’s logic. Displaying a central character at such a low point is an exceptional choice by Adam Mortimer. The mystery of Max’s intentions are displayed so neutrally and at the same time in an almost comical fashion.
While the film benefits from creative and visually appealing animated sequences that may or may not be a part of Max’s history, the opening act feels pretty disjointed as it tries to establish three central story arcs. The lack of focus and finding a narrative footing left me a little cold and in the dark, relying only on my interest in the central characters. When the narrative does come together, the plot spear heads past crucial elements; an example is when Max decides to protect his newfound friends and somehow comes upon an arsenal of bullet proof armour and handguns with no explanation of how he acquired them. Even if he is some fantastical entity from another universe, how the fuck did he figure out how to raid a gun shop undetected?
Just like my previous review of Freaky, Archenemy is another throwaway film from a fantastic studio who is currently shaping the horror/science fiction scene. Each feel like a product of better films which have come before but offer enough entertainment and creativity to rival the critical darling that is A24. Archenemy does a decent job of building mystery, while at the same time challenging genre tropes within a far more reflective world that may ostracize casual viewers. Holding its card so close to its chest works against the film, but what the film excels at is great performances, animation, soundtrack, and visuals produce an intriguing film that falls short of its ambitions.
Glasses of Jack Daniel’s