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With: Zolee Griggs, Joe Manganiello, Skylan Brooks, Paul Scheer, Amy Seimetz, Glenn Howerton
Written by: Adam Egypt Mortimer, Luke Passmore
Directed by: Adam Egypt Mortimer
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 90
Date: 12/11/2020

Archenemy (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Super Skew

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With cool characters and costumes, and a winning combination of the grim and the spirited, the snappy sci-fi Archenemy both adheres to traditional superhero themes and turns them thrillingly sideways.

Max Fist (Joe Manganiello) is a hard-drinking homeless man who claims to have been a superhero in a world called Chromium. While battling his nemesis Cleo and trying to protect his world from her evil doomsday device, he slipped through an opening between time and space and crashed on earth, where his powers are inert.

An aspiring journalist, Hamster (Skylan Brooks), interviews Max and slowly becomes his friend. Meanwhile, Hamster's sister Indigo (Zolee Griggs) works for a drug dealer called "The Manager" (Glenn Howerton), hoping to make a better life for her brother and herself. When Indigo tries to make a break for it, an all-out war starts, and Max must help his new friends.

Archenemy doesn't always do a good job of guarding its ultimate reveal (is Max really a superhero?), and, by the movie's end, one gets the idea that maybe there was a better story to be told here, but what it lacks in overall reach it makes up for with its small, potent doses. Directed and co-written by Adam Egypt Mortimer, who also played with friends who may or may not be what they seem in Daniel Isn't Real, this movie's best asset is its neatly-defined characters. Manganiello does a great job of keeping Max on the fence, despondent and self-destructive, but also genuinely frustrated.

Brooks is a delight as Hamster, first glimpsed wearing socks with smiley and frowny faces on them. Even the henchmen stand out from the background, especially one tough guy who wears glasses and a sweater-vest. But it's Griggs that emerges as the star, her hair and outfit tinged in blue, dropping her voice to a lower register when trying to be "hard," and forever on point.

Archenemy is brutal and violent to be sure, but Mortimer keeps a clean frame and a good pace, the animated interludes are gorgeous, and even the talky scenes are framed in dynamic angles. Overall, it's one of the finer examples of the "alternative" superhero movie genre.

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