The superhero genre is one that has been endlessly rebooting and re-imagining itself for decades. Part of its charm is the inherent ability to comment on the human condition through hyperbole and parody; Superman’s invulnerability causes us to consider our own frailty, Spider-Man’s courage allows us to consider our fears and so on. Archenemy embraces the human aspect of these modern myths whole-heartedly, creating a super-hero that has both gritty realism and comic book wonder in equal measure.
Joe Manganiello play Max Fist, a homeless man who claims to have come from another reality. In this world, he is a burnt out drunk but he talks about his past-live in a vivid, engaging way. A young journalist sees Max as a way to gain social media popularity but of course, things go wrong and our protagonists find themselves taking on very real threats in the form of drug dealers and other low-lives.
Skylan Brooks is mesmerising as the reporter and Zolee Griggs almost steals the show as his street smart sister. However it’s Manganiello who is a revelation here; the performance is simply brilliant. He is utterly compelling as either a super-hero cast out of his reality or as a drunk so caught up in his own fictional reality that it feels real.
Director Adam Egypt Mortimer is no stranger to reality bending stories, as fans of his previous movie, Daniel Isn’t Real, will know. In this movie he excels himself, blending the world of the graphic novel with a low-budget crime move style to create something truly memorable.
Archenemy is a compelling blend of Don Quixote, The Maxx and Flexx Mentallo with a sprinkling of true crime drama for good measure. It suffers a little bit from its low budget but makes up for it with outstanding performances, a fascinating premise and some stunning set-pieces.This is not only a movie for people who want to see super-hero movies move on, but also a movie likely to delight comic book fans who delight in the more bizarre tales that this much maligned genre can deliver.Recommended.