Archenemy is the little hole in the wall restaurant of superhero movies. The kind of joint serving deliciously greasy food that satisfies a certain kind of late night hungry. It’s a comic book adventure unlike any recent release in the genre, done on the lowdown. It’s got an arthouse esthetic matched against a wildly imaginative canvas. And that makes for a crazy ride that will keep you guessing from beginning to end about the true origins of its main hero, an alien named Max Fist, posing as a street nomad, played by Joe Mangienello.
Instead of of the cheese stuff crust special effects and walloping action scenes usually tacked onto most Marvel and DC movies, Archenemy gives us a living graphic novel set against a real world backdrop draped in a post-apocalyptic setting usually reserved for nihilistic 80s movies about the future. Though it wavers on an air of savory post-modern grit that feels timeless in nature. Is this the past? Is this the future? Is this the here and now? It is all of these things and should stand the test of time as a cult oddity. And right now, it can actually be witnessed in the home it was made for, the Drive-In movie theater. As that is one of the few places you’ll be able to catch this quaint sci-fi throwback on the big screen as it opens across the country this weekend. It is also available on PVOD.
More than any other movie in existence, Archenemy is really throwing off some Prayer of the Rollerboys vibes, and I mean that in the best way possible. For lovers of a certain type of cinema, Corey Haim’s opus to inline skating in the post-apocalypse scratches a certain kind of itch, and that aesthetic can be felt here, within these walls. It’s the perfect companion piece in the best way possible.
The story is unique, with its main thrust able to seed itself within any of the canonized comic book franchises currently in existence. Except it resides here, under the bridge, in this dirty shack of thrilling action and mystery that wrings with a certain type of sinewy tissue, punching forth with the power of abstract art. It’s a fun ride that deserves a place on the shelf next to big ballers in the game like Spider-Man and Superman. It’s the homemade enchilada that tastes way better than anything you’ll pull off the menu at the local fast food Taco Bell type joint that is the local cineplex, which is currently shuttered for the time being in most parts of the States.
The story follows Max Fist, played with filthy perfection by Joe Manganiello. Is he an extraterrestrial? Or a crazy homeless person? Max claims to be a hero from another dimension. In crazy graphic novel style animation, we watch as he falls through time and space to Earth, where he has no powers. Hanging out in dirty dive bars, no one believes his stories except for a local teen named Hamster. Together, this pair take to the streets to wipe out the local drug syndicate and its vicious crime boss known as The Manager.
Glenn Howerton, of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame, is almost unrecognizable at first, playing the main villain The Manager with a zing of pure evil that gives the sparse runtime a lightning bolt type energy. He is matched onscreen by Paul Scheer, playing one of his lackeys, in a quick cameo that steals the entire show.
The movie was directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer, whose unique style and flare for the unusual really bring something new to the world of comic book movies. He is known for his cult favorite Daniel Isn’t Real, and he continues his streak here, with a hot blast of action that hits like road rash. This is one of the coolest superhero movies of the year, and in a year lacking in new movies in general, this drinks like a cool, refreshening bit of entertainment that swoops in and takes our mind off the madness of the world around us.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.