'Twisted Metal' Is Post-Apocalyptic Fluff

Developed by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Michael Jonathan Smith

Starring Anthony Mackie, Stephanie Beatriz, Joe Seanoa, Will Arnett, Thomas Haden Church, Chloe Fineman, Jason Mantzoukas

Photo courtesy of Paramount+

BY Alex HudsonPublished Aug 11, 2023

Thanks to The Last of Us, video game adaptations are suddenly in a position to be taken seriously as high-brow TV. The Twisted Metal games, however, were never really story-driven. From my memory of playing the first few instalments on PlayStation many years ago, they were simply car-based death matches with cool-looking vehicles duking it out in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Fun, but not exactly screenplays waiting to happen.

With this very thin outline to go on, Peacock's Twisted Metal adaptation ditches the game's tournament format but keeps the post-apocalyptic setting, with Anthony Mackie starring as a package delivery guy (a "milkman") simply referred to as John Doe. The leader of New San Francisco, Raven (Neve Campbell), hires John to deliver a mysterious package to New Chicago, and it's on this road trip between walled cities that the show's car-based chaos plays out.

Twisted Metal takes a irony-poisoned approach to gore, with a smart-ass sense of humour akin to Zombieland or Deadpool that feels a little outdated. The post-American wasteland is a cool setting, but the tension is often undercut by Mackie constantly making quips. The show's favourite joke is to pair gruesome violence with gimmicky pop hits — "Barbie Girl," "Thong Song," "MMMBop," "Steal My Sunshine" — which quickly grows tiresome. Crazed clown Sweet Tooth (played by AEW's Samoa Joe and voiced by Will Arnett) is likewise overzealously wacky in pursuit of a laugh.

More than action or post-apocalyptic drama, Twisted Metal's effectiveness hinges on its comedy, which brings out both the show's best and worst moments. A clear highlight is Mike Mitchell (of Love and the Doughboys podcast), who lands well-timed punchlines about sleep apnea and lemon pepper seasoning while bringing genuine pathos as the hapless Stu — seemingly the only guy in the whole situation with a conscience.

Similarly effective is the rapport between the over-talkative John and his surly travel companion Quiet (Stephanie Beatriz). Their connection takes a while to get going, as Mackie is essentially doing an impression of Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool and Beatriz is playing a grump with a heart of gold just like she did on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But after a few episodes, as these outcasts gradually warm up to each other, their tenuous alliance becomes the heart of the show, and Twisted Metal turns into a cross between a buddy comedy and a romance.

The series simply doesn't take itself seriously enough to properly dig into the bleakness of its own story. Rather that confronting the menace of killing to survive in a dystopia, it's content to crack jokes, making Twisted Metal more fluffy than it is sharp.

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