Director: Tom Holland
Writer: J. Randal Johnson
Cast: Raymond J. Berry, Brad Pitt, Michelle Bronson, Jack Keeler, John Kassir, and Alva L. Petway
Composer: Warren Zevon
Air Date: 8/8/1992
When threatened by an arrogant, unrelenting psychopath named Billy (Brad Pitt), small-town police officer and retired street racer Joe Garrett (Raymond J. Berry)—known formerly as “Iceman”—must participate in one final contest for the sake of his daughter, Carey (Michelle Bronson). In spite of his cocky demeanor, Billy pays a “grave” price for underestimating his opponent.
“King of the Road” contains the potential for a unique and thrilling episode. That being said, director Tom Holland struggled to explore the personalities of Billy, Joe, and Carey beyond a generic surface level.
It should be noted that Billy lacks the subtlety required for a compelling antagonist. An early performance from Brad Pitt does, however, work in conjunction with Warren Zevon’s biker music, thereby surrounding an otherwise cartoonish villain with a layer of mystery and excitement (for example, Zevon’s cover of “Bad Road, Wretched Road” can be heard when Billy taunts Joe prior to the midnight drag race, which (deceptively) sets the stage for an adrenaline-fueled climax).
By employing cardboard characters, “King of the Road” may fail to captivate the interest of all but the most enthusiastic Tales from the Crypt fans. Especially problematic is that Joe—an incredibly flawed protagonist to begin with—and Carey remain undeveloped from start to finish, a shortcoming that could prevent audiences from investing in the Garrett family plight. An absence of tension leading into the climactic showdown between Joe and Billy can likewise be attributed to weak characterization; specifically, without sufficient motive or background information, viewers will be left with no reason to root for Billy’s triumph over a vicious thug.
“King of the Road” sends a mixed message about owning up to past mistakes. Despite eventually accepting Billy’s challenge when threatened with blackmail, Joe never admits wrongdoing or even attempts to explain his manslaughter charge in a manner that would elicit sympathy—a stark contrast to many Tales from the Crypt episodes, the circumstances of which often result in cruel, albeit satisfying, punishment for those who deserve it.
A mediocre installment, “King of the Road” should be criticized for not balancing its action-packed sequences with insightful commentary on the human condition. Nevertheless, traditional horror devices (e.g. gore, monsters, and supernatural themes) are entirely absent from J. Randal Johnson’s narrative; therefore, this Two-Fisted Tales segment may appeal to a broader demographic than do the majority of Tales from the Crypt offerings.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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