Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Over the Top

Somewhere between Tango & Cash, Cobra, and Rocky 4, Sylvester Stallone made this. It's a familiar spin on the theme of the underdog triumphant, but instead of being about boxing, Over the Top is about arm wrestling, which makes it really stupid.

Lincoln Hawk (Sylvester Stallone) wants to patch things up with his estranged son. The boy, Michael (David Mendenhall), is a bit of a priss, and is convinced this man he's never met is a drug dealing loser, just like Grandpa always said. But Mom, sickly and dying, has a plan unite the two. She's instructed Hawk to pick Michael up at his military academy and drive him home cross country.

Nothing like a road trip to bring two people together.

But Michael doesn't like his father's rig (yes, dad is a trucker), his diet, or the way he supplements his income: Hawkes is quite a sensation on the underground arm wrestling circuit. I bet you didn't even know there was an underground arm wrestling circuit, did you? Apparently there's a lot of money to be made in slamming some guy's arm down on a table before he can slam yours. The real money is in the pros.

I bet you didn't know there was a pro arm wrestling circuit either.

Over the next few days, Hawk and Michael bond. Father teaches son about trucking, and arm wrestling, and that "the world doesn't meet anyone half way" which sets us up nicely for a Kenny Loggins tune on the soundtrack. Unfortunately, by the time the song fades out, Mom has died.

Grandpa (Robert Loggia) has lots of money and lots of lawyers. And he is Evil™ because he wants to take Michael away from Hawkes. Hawk is no match for Grandpa, the only way he'll ever be able to keep Michael is if he makes himself a whole armload (get it?) of money quick. But where can he do that?

At the International Armwrestling Championships in Las Vegas, that's where!

Hawk sells his truck, and bets everything on himself. (Oh, and you may be asking yourself why I am alternately referring to Stallone's character as Hawk and/or Hawkes. But that is how the movie refers to him. If they can't keep his name straight, don't expect me to either.) At 20 to One odds, he'll do quite well if he wins. Plus there's the hundred grand in prize money. And the winner gets a new truck too. The only thing missing is a magic pill to bring Hawkes' dead wife back to life and this contest would have everything.

The film is capped off by a very long finale (at least it seemed long, it may have only been a couple minutes) in which Hawk arm wrestles his way to the prize money, and more importantly, his son's heart. Everyone lives happily ever after, as arm wrestling truckers are wont to do.

Directed by Menahem Golan • PG • 1987 • 93 minutes

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