Following last year’s brain bending, psychedelic fantasy thriller Daniel Isn’t Real, writer/director Adam Egypt Mortimer hot-footed it back into production for his follow-up, Archenemy, a dazzlingly delirious part urban crime drama bolstered by cosmic action and funky, interdimensional superhero bedlam.
Teen wannabe crime reporter Hamster (Skylan Brooks) happens upon a haphazard hobo, Max Fist (Joe Manganiello) who claims to be a cosmic warrior from another dimension. After being dispelled to another reality by archenemy Cleo (Amy Seimetz), Fist finds himself homeless and without powers so sunk into a self-destructive coil of booze and drug abuse, until he meets Hamster.
Hamster thinks Fist’s story could land him a full time journalism position, but plans go awry after his drug pushing sister Indigo’s (Zolee Griggs) misgivings land the three of them in trouble with a local gang. Fist then sets out to rescue Indigo from the crime syndicate thus, in doing so, giving Hamster the story he needs, and purpose to his own lowly existence.
There is more going on in Archenemy than can justifiably be accounted for during its criminally short running time, yet its briskness contributes to a snappy pace and wacky vibe augmented by fantastic animated sequences by Kevin Finnegan, Danny Perez and Sunando C.
These adorn the comic book air enriched further by cult/neon design and thudding electro score by Umberto/Matt Hill, also recalling the punk 80s sci-fi likes of Repo Man, Cherry 2000 and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. These fantasy aspects are also counteracted by refreshingly grimy violence which coats Archenemy with a welcome authenticity.
Like Daniel Isn’t Real, Archenemy is a lively, kaleidoscopic romp, but it lacks imperative character/context development. Indigo hints at wanting her younger brother to go to college as their late father wished, but this and their backstory aren’t extrapolated enough to inform the characters and refine their emotional arcs. A bigger budget and better developed script would have also properly realised the unique premise and made Archenemy so much more than a wacky DTV curio.
Fascinating facets keep the film from straying into derivative sub-genre silage, i.e. the suggestion that everything occurring could be in Max’s head, as parallels are drawn between drug gang conundrums and crisis from Fist’s home realm. Despite the welcome complexity and realism, both the film and Mortimer work best when embracing Richard Kelly and Takashi Miike-like levels of lunacy; a vibrant ingenuity worthy of greater investment and wider attention which both the concept and writer/director deserve.
Archenemy is released on DVD and Digital on 22nd February.