There aren't many movies out there that can give you an instant burning desire to become a trucker, but I'll be damned if Sylvester Stallone didn't pull it off in what many working class patriots consider to be his finest movie to date: Over The Top. This isn't just another mindless action movie... no, no, no! This is a movie with a message. A movie with gumption. A movie with raw emotion. A movie with HEART! So stick your thumb out and hitch a ride with I-Mockery, because today we're going for a ride across 80's America in a big rig and you're gonna learn all about the truly important things in life: Arm wrestling, truck driving, and love.
From the very start of the movie, your heart just swells up with pride as you look at those majestic american landscapes as Stallone drives on through them in his big rig (complete with the requisite mudflaps which read "passing side" on the left and "suicide" on the right) appropriately accompanied by Robin Zander's sweeping ballad, "In This Country". Seeing all of this beautiful countryside makes you damned proud to be an American... even if you're not from and/or living in America, watching it makes you feel like you are. That's how well written "Over The Top" really is... you feel good before a single word is even spoken. Goddamn, I'm getting all choked up just writing about it, so let's move on...
Meet Hawk. Hudson Hawk. Ok, I'm kidding, his name is actually Lincoln Hawk and he's a proud truck driver who wants to make up for the mistakes he made in the past. He and his wife split up, but they had a son (Michael) whom he rarely sees. Her father, Jason Cutler (played by one of my favorite on-screen angry old guys, Robert Loggia) has Michael enrolled at Summit Crest Military Academy and made sure that Hawk was basically never able to see him. But now Michael is getting out of school and his mom (who is very ill and in a hospital) wants Hawk to pick him up in order to get to know his son again.
We're treated to a montage of Hawk spiffing up his truck to make it more presentable to his son... polishing his silver hawk hood ornament, spraying his tires with Armor All (get used to seeing blatant advertisements in the movie like this one), and brushing his teeth outdoors to further emphasize that he is a man's man. He doesn't need riches, he doesn't need fancy homes or cars, he doesn't even need a bathroom... he just needs a truck and the love of his son. Go get him, Hawk!
When Hawk arrives at the military school, everybody just stares at him with disgust as if to say, "What business does that commoner have at this fine institution? The nerve of him, parking that wretched truck here!" But Hawk is unaffected by their disdainful ogling, all he's thinking about is finally reuniting with his boy... he even wore a clip-on tie for the occasion. Fancy! If you ask me, he shouldn't be so excited about it, because Michael turns out to be a pompous little shit who thinks he knows everything about the world. Nonetheless, he reluctantly agrees to go with Hawk after asking to see some identification, of course.
"I'd like to say something, sir. This truck is disgusting." Gotta love how he simultaneously treats his dad with respect by calling him "sir" while insulting him by talking shit about the truck he makes a living in. Michael then asks Hawk why he has lots of family pictures in his truck and why he never wrote him any letters. Frustrated, Hawk then tells him he wrote him a hundred times, for birthdays 'n everything, but Michael never received them (I wonder why). Michael then says he's feeling sick and asks Hawk to pull the truck over. Being the brilliant kid that he is, he demonstrates the discipline he learned at military school by darting across a busy highway, nearly getting hit and causing several car accidents. Hawk catches up to him, tearing off one of his sleeves in the process, and Michael shouts "I hate you!" as he cries his whiny ass off. Get used to that too, because you'll see a lot of his prepubescent tears throughout the film. While most dads would've beaten the hell out of their kids for pulling a stunt like that, Hawk just holds him and says, "Then hate me... we have to start some place." Looks like somebody wants to win the "father of the year" award, eh?
Jason Cutler soon arrives at the military school and he's not pleased at all to find out that they let Michael go with Hawk. "My daughter is in no condition to make that kind of a decision and I didn't fly all the way up here to be simply told you turned my grandson over to that worthless bastard! I can't tolerate stupidity." Ahhh Robert Loggia... he's just as good as Mickey was in the Rocky films at being a squinty-eyed grumpy old man who yells a lot.
Back in the truck, Hawk suggests that they go to a truckstop for a nice steak. Michael then blabs about how he's going to become a "victim of cholesterol poisoning" and will simply start to "rot away" later in life. Hawk shows his son just how much his little factoids matter by going to get a steak anyway and, of course, we're treated to more of that magical american scenery. And when he pulls in to the truckstop, we see another blatant advertisement - this time it's for BRUT cologne. You'll see a lot o' BRUT in this movie. After all, if there's one cologne brand that would be the choice of truckers, it's gotta be the essence of man. It's gotta be BRUT.
Once inside, Hawk orders a steak for himself and some fried chicken for Mike. Mike immediately rejects the order and spurts out more of his nutritional banter, "For a man who exercises, you don't know much about nutrition. A fried chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy contains about 1000 calories and 50 percent fat. These fats have been linked to heart disease and some cancer." Mike instead orders a tuna salad, whole wheat toast and spring water and Hawk orders the same to make his son happy - or at least to shut him up from blabbing on about nutritional health any longer. Oh the sacrifices a parent has to make...
Before long, a man who refers to himself as "The Smasher" walks up to Hawk and says he heard he's the man to beat. "I've got a thousand that says I can tear your arm off! You want it?" And this is where it all begins. This is where we see that Hawk isn't just a reserved man who drives a truck. He's an arm wrestling pro and when moments like this pop up, he's all business. So are you ready for an overdose of macho? Damn skippy!
As he slowly approaches The Smasher for their big arm wrestling match, Hawk's eyes widen and he sticks out his chest as if to say, "I'm 100% psycho beefcake, think you can handle it, Suzie?" It's all part of his staredown ritual to psyche out his opponent. The Smasher has his own pre-match ritual as well:
His ritual primarily consists of yelling 'n grunting a lot, having his buddy repeatedly slap him in the face, and flexing his arm muscles for all to see. It's a man thing, ok?
Now it's time for Hawk to go to work. When he turns that hat of his around, he's a different man. A man with an arm of steel!
At first, the match is going in The Smasher's favor as he nearly has Hawk's arm pinned, but that's when it happens. Hawk does his patented "over the top" move and suddenly turns the tide, resulting in a win that makes him $1000 richer. Not a bad haul for a few minutes o' work. Get it? Haul? That's a trucker joke! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! No.
Meet Bob "Bull" Hurley (Rick Zumwalt). He's the biggest, baddest arm wrestler around, he's won the world championship for the last 5 years in a row and he's been wanting to have a go at Hawk for a long time now. He first enters the truckstop with a dry t-shirt just before Hawk's match with "The Smasher" begins, and literally a minute later, his shirt is completed soaked in sweat. Man-sweat. Watch the movie closely and you'll see what I mean. He also calls him "Hawks" in this scene instead of "Hawk", which is one of the continuity issues of the film that occurs several more times later on.
Anyway, Bull wants Hawk to arm wrestle him right then and there, but Hawk says to wait 'til the championships in Vegas to which he responds, "You ain't got a prayer in Vegas! Too bad your old man's yellow, kid. I'll see you in Vegas!" And on that note, Bull and all of his mighty man-sweaty glory leaves the truck stop... presumably to find a town suffering from a drought where he can wring out his shirt to quench their collective thirsts.
Mike also speaks with his mom and she tells him how important it is to be patient with his father because there's much more to life than what he's seen. Oh, and now Hawk is hauling the BRUT cologne trailer from earlier on, so you can bet your CB radio that you'll see more of those blatant advertisements throughout the remainder of the film. And speaking of BRUT cologne, why do they show footage of the truck passing by the Grand Canyon like that? There's just no way in hell would he need to pass through the Grand Canyon. I've been there, and there's no BRUT Factory way up there that he'd need to deliver a truckload of that size to. I think the director just wanted an excuse to show some more of those awe-inspiring american landscapes. Well? Are you awed? Are you inspired? You'd better be, goddamnit.
So Jason goes to the hospital to visit his daughter, Christina, and asks her why she had Hawk pick up Michael from school and she explains that she just wanted him to get to know his father. He then argues that he's been Michael's father for the past 12 years and tries to reassure her that everything will turn out alright. After leaving her room, he tells his thugs to find his son by any means necessary... yeah, I'm sure that'll work out well.
Later that night, Hawk pulls his truck over and tells Mike that they're gonna sleep in the truck. "By the way, if your neck gets sore tonight, you can use my shoulder for a pillow." Sure, he beat "The Smasher" 'n all, but is this Hawk guy a softy or what? As the sun rises, we see that it's Michael who has lent his shoulder as a pillow for dad to rest his head on. Awww... they're bonding! It's like this trip in the truck is making up for all of those years that they spent apart! Forget about therapy or appearing on a talk show, if you want to reconnect with family members you had a falling out with, simply go for a long ride across the country with them in a big rig. Problem solved!
As you can imagine, sitting in a truck all day long doesn't avail oneself to a lot of exercise, so Hawk has made it part of his daily routine to exercise in the morning... and now he's showing Mike how it's done. So we get a montage of the two of them working out: stretching, push-ups, arm wrestling practice, and even pulling themselves up against the grill of the truck (I'm sure it's a valid form of exercise). The best part about all of this? It's all done to Kenny Loggins' immortal 80's rock ballad, "Meet Me Half Way" (which is what the movie was almost named apparently) and we later learn some important life lessons based on those lyrics. No matter what kind of script or actors you're working with, it's a well known fact that having the music of Kenny Loggins in your movie will make it 50 times more enjoyable.
Of course, the musical montage wouldn't be complete without more shots of the countryside......... and BRUT cologne.
Now here's one of the most badass things about Over The Top. I mentioned before that it's hard for a guy who sits in a truck all day to get exercise, but Hawk has found a way around it. He has installed a pulley-weight set right inside his truck so that he can exercise his wrestling arm. That's right my friends... Lincoln Hawk is the godfather of TRUCKERCIZE! Frankly, I'm amazed more car manufacturers haven't picked up on this yet. If you ask me, they should forgo the extra cup holders and start putting full weight sets in every car they produce. Hell, I would buy that car in a heartbeat, just so I could have one mutantly-huge right arm after just a few months of driving. Come on car manufacturers, meet me halfway!
Will Richard Simmons become the official
new spokesman for Truckercize?
Click here to continue onward to see
what happens next in Over The Top!
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