Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Based on a vehicular combat video game franchise of the same name from Sony Online Entertainment, Twisted Metal is a post-apocalyptic nightmare of survival with souped-up cars, modded guns, and crazed other raiders!
So meet the world as it currently is, a good old-fashioned sh*t-show. Awhile ago something big and nasty wiped out computers, and the internet, and then electricity, and civility was left in the dust as everyone began fighting everyone else for whatever was left. The cities that were left walled themselves off and left the bad element of society, the killers and thieves and misfits, all who didn’t fit in with the new societal norms were ousted and left to fend for themselves against other Mad Max-style marauders, with their own modded cars and guns.
Our protagonist is the Milkman, John Doe (Anthony Mackie), a man with a past he can’t remember and only a photo to remind him, who, as his handle suggests, makes delivery runs of needed supplies between various areas. He is effortlessly charming, cheerfully employs explosive countermeasures against other marauders in his beloved car EV3L1N, bombs epic 90’s nostalgia tunes from her speakers, and is somehow one of the more free people still alive in this post-apocalyptic world. The only thing is, John Doe is lonely, and has no place he calls Home. Then one day, John gets called in to meet the leader of New San Fracisco, Raven (Neve Campbell).
Life in this world of after-the-disaster is often about appearances, style over substance, and the song and dance Raven sells John Doe about giving him a Home in New San Fracisco, a place to belong amongst the not-at-all-subjugated denizens, with access to meat and sporting things like alive babies and OMGdude toilet paper, sounds very much too good to be true. Because it is. However, the trip all the way from New San Francisco to Chicago to pick up a package for Raven with a ten-day deadline, is right up the Milkmans alley, and it’s unlikely any other delivery man has the audacity to pull it off.
But the road to Chicago is fraught with peril, especially from the mad murderous clown known as Sweet Tooth that’s taken over the entirety of Vegas, as John Doe’s friend the Mapmaker Tommy (Lou Beatty Jr.) repeatedly warns.
In this post-apocalyptic world there will likely always be folk who want things to go back to order, with rules and laws and consequences, usually taking a bit too far and murderous in the process. Enter self-proclaimed Agent Stone (Thomas Hayden Church), the head lawman of this brave new world, determined to bring the full force of his version of the law down on the dregs of outcast society here beyond the walls of the cities. He has good old-fashioned executions after long pompous speeches about how he’s doing the new world a favor by cleaning it up, all under the putative protective banner of the badge, and recruits by means fair or foul other would-be ACAB acolytes. And the execution of a sibling pair of car thieves, one very Loud (Richard Cabral) and one dubbed Quiet (Stephanie Beatriz) later, is the perfect example to leave as a message to other would-be lawbreakers.
Making the run from New San Francisco to Chicago is always better with a co-pilot, or would be if she spoke at all. Somehow Quiet and John Doe are thrown together for better or worse to make this run, John even naively thinks he can convince Raven to allow Quiet’s entrance into New San Francisco too, for helping him.
You wouldn’t think a killer psychotic clown would need a backstory, much less a semi-relatable one, but Sweet Tooth has one and it’s actually pretty good. The body actor for Sweet Tooth (Joe Seanoa) accompanied by the unexpected affable everyman drawl of Will Arnett for his voice, is a real treat, as he cheerfully lops off arms and heads, all while explaining about the need for closure with his various traumas, often suddenly and violently and all over the place. Despite his penchant for sudden ultra-violence, Sweet Tooth is actually what could be considered a good guy in this post-apocalyptic disaster of a world, where people will quite literally kill you over the last half-bag of doggie chow. Sweet Tooth cares about things like emotional scars and the need for entertainment and lauding your artists, often yes at the expense of several audience member lives, but you can’t make a fantastic omelette without beating the hell out of the eggs! And when Sweet Tooth comes across a down on his luck about to be killed by the supposed cops type of dude, the aptly named Stu (Mike Mitchell), who had so recently been betrayed by his pal Mike (Taj Vaughans), he takes Stu under his fiery wing!
Plenty of other interesting characters round out our after-world sh*t-show – Watts (Jamie Neumann) and Granny Dread (Peg O’Keef) of the convoy, and Watts’ old herbal hippie lover but still good with poisons Amber (Diany Rodriguez); the trophy-hungry crew of the Orange County Astral Burger, who oh so deserved the comeuppance they finally got; the “everything goes” haunt of Preacher (Jason Mantzoukas) and his ridiculous Holy Men; even the enigmatic Calypso, who clearly has a strained secret relationship with Raven and her ultimate agenda.
So, what now? It seems that Home, even with it’s toilet paper and meat and potential answers to John’s history to be found, is pretty boring if John is alone. That supposed practice run he did for Raven has soured him a bit on the whole Milkman life, and even if we’re all pretty sure he could absolutely kill the ultimate race Raven is demanding he run next, John has to be in charge of his own life now. Annnd of course that’s right about when family just has to show up, much to Quiet’s dismay!
Full of cheerful violence, casual cruelty between humans, epic bangin’ 90’s tunes, enough gleeful swearing to make a sailor stammer and a well-understood desire not just to survive but thrive, Twisted Metal is lit on fire on the Peacock channel now!