Ash Avildsen has long been making a sizable impact on music as the founder and CEO of Sumerian Records, which has signed artists like After the Burial, Asking Alexandria, Betraying the Martyrs, Between the Buried and Me, Black Veil Brides, Born of Osiris, From First to Last, I See Stars, Jonathan Davis, Sleeping With Sirens, Smashing Pumpkins, and many more. But as the son of movie director John G. Avildsen - who directed the original Rocky as well as The Karate Kid - he also has a good bit of filmmaking blood in him, leading him to starting Sumerian Films and launching the successful 2017 film American Satan.
The film starred Andy Biersack of Black Veil Brides as rock star Johnny Faust, the singer for an upcoming band called The Relentless. The film followed the band’s tumultuous journey to stardom and the life of excess that often comes with it, as Johnny and his bandmates struggled with drugs, alcohol and women while their music rocketed them to fame and fortune. They also find themselves making literal deals with the devil, complete with rituals and sacrifices in the name of the occult.
Paradise City continues the story of American Satan as a series on Amazon Prime Video, with its first season comprising eight episodes. Biersack reprises his role, as well as much of the original cast that includes Ben Bruce of Asking Alexandria and Booboo Stewart of Twilight, X-Men, and Descendants fame as the guitarists for The Relentless. Bella Thorne also stars as Lily Mayflower, the bassist for the group. The series veers a little bit away from the murders and occult influences of the film in favor of more character drama, with betrayals and relationship issues as the main focus amongst the band navigating an ever-changing music industry.
Since the massive success of their debut album, Johnny has become a bit of a recluse, never leaving his house to record new music or play shows. Johnny has gotten himself sober, with a lot of help from his girlfriend Gretchen (Olivia Culpo). Going back into the spotlight as a rock star and returning to a life on the road is a dangerous choice for the singer due to the temptations that go with it, but Gretchen encourages him to get back to work - the bills don’t pay themselves after all. But getting back into the groove of things and returning to the public eye is easier said than done, and Johnny struggles to record new music with the band as his personal problems continue to get in the way.
Things are tense between him and Lily, who he slept with during one drug-fueled evening, and it makes him paranoid that Gretchen will never trust him. Besides that, Lily and her new girlfriend are constantly finding themselves on the wrong side of the media as they get into trouble, painting the band in an increasingly negative and controversial light. As complications between band members and the band versus the media continue to mount, a wild revelation comes to light: Johnny has a child, one that was conceived while he was out on tour and slept with a young groupie named Vivian (Amanda Steele). It’s a secret that Johnny doesn’t want to get out, and the attempts to keep Vivian and her unpredictable mother Lizzie (Fairuza Balk) quiet put even more strain on the band and its management team.
The series also prominently features the late actor Cameron Boyce, who appears here in his final posthumous performance. Boyce plays a young musician named Simon who fronts a small local band called The Flux, and he gets the attention of Maya (Sopranos star Drea de Matteo), the overworked and underappreciated agent for The Relentless. Simon’s father is a powerful record executive called Oliver Ostergaard (Ryan Hurst), who appears to be scheming to steal The Relentless away from his business rival, Elias (Mark Boone Junior).
Paradise City shows the difficulties of maintaining a band while dealing with personal issues, as well the pressures of constantly being in the public eye and genuine musical inspiration versus making music to appease corporate profits. For as much soap opera-esque drama drives the show, there’s an equal amount of hard-hitting rock songs that we see performed, and the supernatural forces that were prominent in the original film still creep in occasionally. But what’s most exciting in the number of rock star cameos that pop up throughout the series. Sid Wilson of Slipknot appears as Fritz, a wannabe star with a primadonna attitude who constantly makes a fool of himself. Randy Blythe of Lamb of God also shows up throughout as the frontman for a washed-up band that can no longer find an audience, playing to only a few people at venues like a Mediterranean restaurant - at least they do whenever their tour bus isn’t breaking down. Other cameos include guitarist Nita Strauss, Bones UK, Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens, and many more.
Fans of the music will find plenty to enjoy, and Biersack proves himself to be a very capable actor along with the rest of the talented cast. With a finale that involves an emotional farewell at a massive music festival and a slew of temptations for Johnny, things could easily go very wrong for everyone involved. You’ll just have to watch to find out.
Paradise City is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.