Review by Sean Boelman
Video game adaptations are well-known to be cursed, but every once in a while, there comes around an exception that is surprisingly very good. Although it’s far from perfect, the amount of hilarious and exhilarating moments make Twisted Metal one of the most easily-consumable series in recent memory.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the series follows a delivery driver who spends his days making runs between safe havens through the anarchic wasteland as he is given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn his freedom. Ultimately, this MacGuffin-based storyline is only an excuse to get our characters into hijinks running into bands of survivors in the wasteland.
The show is both action-packed and quick with its comedy. Add in the episode lengths all being right around a half hour — sometimes even shorter — and the series absolutely flies by. That being said, there are some portions that feel somewhat rushed. The show often jumps forward in time, rather than using tools such as montages to show the passing of time, which does make it a bit harder for us to buy into the “race against the clock” narrative.
As the plots of the games are relatively thin and straightforward, it would be reasonable to ask how they found enough material to create a ten-episode series. The answer is that the show is better described as loosely-inspired by the games, with a vibe that feels much more akin to Zombieland with a dash of Mad Max. It’s a fun time, and there are a lot of easter eggs for those familiar with the games, but expect less Thunderdome and more of the 1979 film.
When it comes to the show’s visuals, they are a bit of a mixed bag. When the action sequences fall back on CGI, it’s blatantly obvious. However, given the heavy camp factor the show has anyway, it doesn’t detract particularly much from the viewer’s enjoyment. And while certain sets and costumes are great — the DMV torture chamber is particularly inspired — others don’t fully immerse us in the post-apocalyptic world.
After having been the sidekick or co-lead in so many franchises, Anthony Mackie finally gets his chance to be the leading man in Twisted Metal, and he truly shines. He’s charming and funny, and he nails the few hand-to-hand combat scenes he has. Stephanie Beatriz’s performance is more uneven. She’s often funny and has great chemistry with Mackie, but her line delivery often feels unnatural — especially during the more emotional moments.
There are also plenty of other memorable supporting characters that would have been competitors in the game. In the supporting cast, Will Arnett is very funny as the voice of maniacal clown Sweet Tooth (one of the games’ more recognizable characters), and Thomas Haden Church is perfect as the depraved lawman. There’s also a particularly fun cameo from Jason Mantzoukas.
Twisted Metal is a lot more fun than it has any right to be for a show based on a video game whose point is basically to smash other cars. What allows this to stand out from other video game adaptations is that the creators did not feel overly bound to the source material, instead using it as the inspiration for a genuinely fun action-comedy.
Twisted Metal streams on Peacock beginning July 27. All ten episodes reviewed.