(director/writer: Adam Egypt Mortimer; screenwriter: story by Mortimer/Lucas Passmore; cinematographer: Halyna Hutchins; editors: Chris Patterson/Lana Wolverton; music: Umberto; cast: Joe Manganiello (Max Fist), Max Brandt (Decker),  Jessica Allain (Melissa), Luis Kelly-Duarte (Comic Store Owner), Skylan Brooks (Hamster), Zolee Griggs (Indigo), Amy Seimetz (voice of Cleo Ventris), Paul Sheer (Krieg), Joseph T. Reitmann (Finn), Glenn Howerton (The Manager); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Kim Sherman/Lisa Whelan/Elijah Wood/Daniel Noah/Nick Joe Manganiello/Joe Manganiello; RLJE/Head Gear Films; 2020)

“Makes for a loopy action-adventure film, filled with raw energy and a muddled story.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Archenemy makes for a loopy action-adventure film, filled with raw energy and a muddled story. It’s written and directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer (“Daniel Isn’t Real”/”Some Kind of  Hate”) as if a stylized comic book superhero story. It’s based on the director’s own story. Mortimer scripts it with Lucas Passmore. The star Joe Manganiello plays a possible alien superhero who might be really only a mental case.

In the low-budget thriller, there’s a bum-like character who hangs around the alleyways of Los Angeles and drinks beer and tells wild superhero stories about himself and
punches walls, and introduces himself to us in an animation with a voice-over as once a superhero before losing his above-average powers when living in the city of Chromium in outer space. He fights there the female villain Cleo (voiced by Amy Seimetz) and defeats her to save Chromium. But in the fight, both were plunged into a vortex “between space and time” and he gets booted down to Earth when he punched through the subatomic structures after saving Chromium.

On Earth, the alien, not too convincingly, tells anyone who will listen how
“I used … to punch holes … in space and not in walls.” He notes in the other dimension he was a hero, but he’s now a sad sack without his powers and is dubbed Max Fist by the snappy Black street kid Hamster *Skylar Brooks) he befriends, who is the only one on Earth who cares to believe the bum’s story could be true. The kid is a wannabe reporter, who hustled his way into such a job with an online internet site.

Hamster’s older sister Indigo (Zolee Griggs), his protector, is a low-level pusher who works for the flashy drug kingpin called “The Manager” (Glenn Howerton).

Indigo is ordered by her boss to get a payment owed him by his murderous druggie operative Krieg (Paul Sheer), who sports
a barbed wire tattoo on his forehead with genius written above it. The villain waits for her in his hotel room. But things go awry, as she needs her brother’s help.

Manganiello tries hard to make this crap work, as we tensely wait to see if the bum could have really been a former superhero (following the mantra anything is possible in such a schlocky film), as he goes on a mission to bring down the drug kingpin and his syndicate. The joke here is if you take things seriously, you should realize this stuff is meant only as a satire or to be subversive to the comic book genre. If the execution wasn’t so poorly handled and if it wasn’t so far out as to make things unbelievable, it might have worked better. But it wasn’t handled well and the uneven film was too superficial to be no more than a watchable time-waster and a somewhat trippy sci-fi film that was modestly financed, presented and acted.

REVIEWED ON 12/19/2020  GRADE: C