He claims to have fallen through a vortex from another dimension, thrown out of the shining city of light where he was a hero to the people by the cruel Cleo Ventrik who used the void machine to send him to a dimmer universe where he is tethered to a grim rock called Earth which resembles his home but is beyond the realm of the cosmic source which granted him his powers.
It’s the story Hamster believes will be his breakout, having been promised a position as a creator at a content provider if his trial can generate fifteen million viewers, and so far the teasing facts he has gleaned from the man who calls himself Max Fist have gathered interest, but with the gig not yet landed he keeps pushing.
Hamster’s sister, Indigo, who has woven her name into her high visibility personality, cautions that Max is a schizophrenic who lives under a bridge and far from a reliable source, and she has problems of her own, pushing for promotion in the drug distribution network and given a trial by “the Manager” which goes south quickly when her twitchy contact gets overexcited with a gun with a debt of several thousand dollars still unpaid.
Directed by Daniel Isn’t Real’s Adam Egypt Mortimer from a story co-written with Lucas Passmore, Archenemy opens with a swirl of psychedelic smoke, illuminated and consuming, before True Blood’s Joe Manganiello lands onto the streets of Los Angeles where life as an unemployed superhero is rough and his rage is ignited rather than quelled by his dependence on the bottle.
His lost world which may or not be entirely imaginary created in animated interludes, it has a vivid and distinct identity and reduces production costs, but it is a vicarious experience, an unbelievable story told to the audience and Hamster (The Darkest Minds‘ Skylan Brooks) rather than experienced, and that it is so readily believed by a supposedly savvy street kid speaks to his naivety, an indication confirmed by his parallel conviction that filming homeless people will secure his big break.
A film replete with disappointed dreamers desperate for significance, small men who think they are big time to whom shouting is authority and bullying is power, it is Indigo (Bit’s Zolee Griggs) who has a practical if precarious plan to get her brother out of the ghetto while the larger wheels behind the scene are turned by the Archenemy herself, Cleo Ventrik (Pet Sematary‘s Amy Seimetz), the patient vengeance of one who holds the true power.
Bearing more than a passing resemblance to The Maxx, another dimensionally displaced hero living as a homeless man with a penchant for the colour purple, in his cape Max Fist is presented as nothing so much as a washed-up professional wrestler who struts to grinding guitars and offers stomping bravado for the cheering crowds before symbolically cleansing himself by burning his past and reinventing himself, or at least updating his image to something more suitable.
Beaten but unbroken, Manganiello gives more than is called for by Mortimer’s slight script of unlikely happenings in a world as make-believe as the one Max claims to have come from, Archenemy aims for cool but it is a fast moving target difficult to pin down, and with the focus on the visual rather than character but with insufficient budget to pack the necessary clout it is a stab at greatness that lands a flesh wound rather than a critical hit.