Movie Review: Joe Manganiello is off his rocker, or an alien superhero — “Archenemy”

A deep bow, from the waist, for any actor who takes a flier on a crazy idea of a movie, on a nutty dreamer with a screen-written dream, on a cracked visionary with the unlikely name Adam Egypt Mortimer.

That’s what Joe Manganiello did. He’s the “name” who signed on the dotted line and got the lunacy that is “Archenemy” made.

He plays a hulking, Letterman-bearded drunk, raving and weaving stories of his life back on “Chromium,” the world where he used to live, where his blood was blue and he was like “a god” who “used to punch holes through space and time,” and who once saved that world by stopping the evil Cleo and her “void machine.”

But…hiccup…”it was the last thing I ever did.”

Now he’s here, telling these tall tales, inventively visualized as lurid hot pink and Slurpee blue comic book animation in his mind or the minds of his listeners. Don’t underestimate this rummy, friends. He’s a superhero!

“I’m not a f—–g superhero!”

And he didn’t fly here from Chromium. Oh no.

“I didn’t fly through space. I came through the membranes of reality.”

OK. The one guy to take this flake he labels “Max Fist” seriously is Hamster (Skylan Brooks of “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete”). He’s a manic reporter-wannabe, weaseling his way into a job with an online news organization through his stories on Max Fist, his life on Chromium and his plight now.

Hamster’s sister is trying to support them by drug dealing. Indigo (Zolee Griggs of that recent Wu-Tang Clan TV series) wears her dreads long and blue and her nerve on her sleeve when running errands for the wisecracking villain who calls himself The Manager (Glenn Howerton).

He’s fond of wearing tennis gear, and down for pushing his target market for street drugs younger — “the sippy cup crowd. If they’re old enough to download porn on their iPad, they’re old enough to get high!”

He’s joking. He just makes the self-described “sugarplum fairy interstellar princess” more nervous every time they meet.

Threats are both real — from the heavily-armed drug dealer and his minions — and maybe imagined. There’s this Cleo (Amy Seimetz) that Max rants about, the SuperVillain on Chromium whom he defeated but did not vanquish. Might she be just a figment of his stories?

As “Archenemy” flips back and forth from the bloody, violent, lawless “reality” of “Edge City,” its fantasy-“present” and the animated Chromium of Max’s fever dreams, a fundamental flaw drags on any notion of reveling in its gruesome violence and deranged archetypes, in the “story” that isn’t much of a story at all.

There’s no “reality” to ground this in, no baseline that feels real. So there’s no doubt about Max’s true background. None.

The dialogue has its moments, but the jokes are too sparse to buttress the arch, comic book camp tone Mr. Adam Egypt Mortimer was going for.

And while the wigs are fabulous and the effects interesting, it’s all something of a hash. Coherent enough, sure, but making sense of it seems like a fool’s errand, start to finish.

But take heart. More drugs are legal in a lot more places now. And nothing converts a loopy, trippy over-reach into a “cult” film better than hallucinogens, shared by the watch party.

MPA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, profanity

Cast: Joe Manganiello, Zolee Griggs, Skylan Brooks, Glenn Howerton and Amy Seimetz

Credits: Directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer, script by Adam Egypt Mortimer and Luke Passmore. An RLJE release.

Running time: 1:31

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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