Archenemy: Joe Manganiello Shines in Grounded Superhero Tale

When you think about all the stories and tall tales relatives might tell at family gatherings, they might describe it the way Joe Manganiello does if he/she were a superhero in RLJE Films' Archenemy. Make no mistake; this is not some indie film masquerading as a tentpole blockbuster. It's more grounded in the style of the protagonists face a constant grounded struggle almost similar in the fashion of a Mark Millar film. There are not random holy shit Final Destination-type surprises where people die cartoony deaths, but it's something that insists you take it seriously and read between the lines.

Archenemy: Joe Manganiello Shines in Grounded Superhero Tale
Joe Manganiello as Max Fist and Skylan Brooks as Hamster in Archenemy (2020). Image courtesy of RLJE Films.

Directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer and co-written by Lucas Passmore, Archenemy follows Max Fist (Manganiello), who's an interdimensional hero from another world. He ended up trapped thanks to his nemesis Cleo (Amy Seimetz). Stripped of his powers, he lives the life of a vagrant bitter at what he's lost, telling anyone who will listen. For anyone thinking this will go in the direction of Hancock (2008), you'd be sadly mistaken. Max finds an interested storyteller in Hamster (Skylan Brooks), who's more than willing to humor him, spinning his tales and capturing his imagination. As he hopes to gain notoriety, his sister Indigo (Zolee Griggs) is trying to survive, making a life for herself and her family.

Archenemy: Joe Manganiello Shines in Grounded Superhero Tale
Zolee Griggs as Indigo in Archenemy (2020). Image courtesy of RLJE Films

To say Indigo falls into the wrong crowd is an understatement as she gets caught up in an organized crime ring led by The Manager, played by Glenn Howerton of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and AP Bio. It's always a delight to see him on the screen scheming for those familiar with his work, which I realize it's actually difficult for me to separate his more famous characters from the semi-serious role he's playing. He's more neurotic than he is ruthless, and perhaps that's by design. It works for the comic book villain mold.

Archenemy: Joe Manganiello Shines in Grounded Superhero Tale
Glenn Howerton as The Manager in Archenemy (2020). Image courtesy of RLJE Films

With Brooks providing the eyes and ears from the audience's perspective, we steadily gain the trust of Max Fist as he starts to regain what he once lost. It's ironic that he's already playing the DC character of Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, in its extended universe because he would actually make a competent Caped Crusader with all the brooding he's done. Archenemy is not a film that's easy to get into and requires patience. In some ways, it would even be an acquired taste. There's no epic CG or near as many heavily choreographed sequences compared to its genre brethren. Manganiello is the primary driving force, and it's a hit-and-miss depending on how you're personally invested in his character. Otherwise, it's passable. The film also stars Luis Kelly-Duarte, Paul Scheer, Mac Brandt, and Kieran Gallagher. The film comes to theatres, on-demand, and digital on December 11.

Archenemy: Joe Manganiello Shines in Grounded Superhero Tale
Archenemy (2020) poster courtesy of RLJE Films


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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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