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Friday, 16 November 2012

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

 
Cody relates to a Sylvester Stallone movie about trucking and arm wrestling.



OVER THE TOP (1987)

Legendary producer Menahem Golan took the director's chair for himself on this production, working from a story crafted by Gary Conway (Death Wish II) and David Engelbach (American Ninja 2 and 3) that was turned into a screenplay by prolific writer Stirling Silliphant, who won an Oscar twenty years earlier for his adaptation of In the Heat of the Night, and star Sylvester Stallone, also an Oscar-nominated writer himself for Rocky.

The resulting film wouldn't take Silliphant and Stallone back into Oscar territory (the movie actually earned several Razzie nominations), but it is a nice little father/son drama with a hearty dose of testosterone.
 
 
Stallone plays truck driver Lincoln Hawks (or Hawk, the movie can't seem to make up its mind), who was setting up a life with his wife Christina and son Michael twelve years ago when Christina's domineering, disapproving father Jason Cutler made it his mission to break up his daughter's marriage. Eventually unable to take his father-in-law anymore, Lincoln hit the road and now spends his life traversing the country, hauling loads varying from machinery to Brut cologne.

Now sick with a heart condition and facing surgery, Christina has decided that Lincoln and his son have got to get back together, so she has asked him to pick Michael up from his last day of school at a Colorado military academy and drive him back home to California.

Young Michael doesn't like this turn of events at all. He expects to be picked up by his grandfather, the man who has raised him his whole life and whose last name he has taken. Grandpa Cutler has spent ten years turning Michael against Lincoln, filling his head with lies about him and keeping all of the letters and birthday cards Lincoln has written to him out of his view. As far as Michael is concerned, he doesn't have a father. But, he's stuck in this situation, and even though Lincoln leads a much different lifestyle than Michael is used to and they're, as Michael says, "on a different social scale", the kid gradually comes to be more accepting of his father as he sees that his grandpa's stories were mostly untrue and that Lincoln does really care about the son he left behind. Lincoln's not the terrible person he's been made out to be, and leaving his family was the worst mistake he ever made.

As Lincoln and Michael bond, Grandpa Cutler - a very rich man who lives in the same mansion as the Clampetts did in The Beverly Hillbillies and has a group of goons to do dirty work for him - sets out to make sure they will never have a proper father/son relationship and Michael will stay with him.
 
 
That's the heart of the drama. Adding excitement and upping the manliness is the fact that everything is building up to Lincoln competing in a third act international arm wrestling championship being held at the Las Vegas Hilton, where he bets his $7000 life savings on himself, a twenty to one shot. ("Over the Top" is apparently what the final phase in an arm wrestling competition is called.)
 
 
In his matches, Lincoln goes up against guys like the pugnacious Smasher, Grizzly (who eats lit cigars and swills Valvoline), and most dangerous of all, Bull Hurley, a man who finds that the only pleasures in life come from driving truck and breaking arms. Bull Hurley is played by the hulking Rick Zumwalt, who was an arm wrestling champion in real life.
 
Over the Top is a very simple and quick movie and is quite entertaining to watch. It's one that I grew up with as part of my regular viewing rotation, as it's a movie that my older brother liked to watch over and over when he was a teenager. With the dramatic element, it's even a movie that my grandmother would leave on if it started playing on a movie channel.
 
 
I've written on the blog before, like in the Rolling Vengeance and Licence to Kill articles, about the fact that I have a soft spot for movies dealing with semi trucks because I come from a family of truck drivers. My father is a long haul truck driver, one of his brothers drove truck, their father was a trucker. So I've always enjoyed that angle of Over the Top. Revisiting the movie again this week, I could relate to it in an even more personal way than before, as the relationship between Lincoln and Michael reminded me of the way the one between my father and myself has turned out. I know what it's like to be the kid with a father who has a truck cab covered with pictures of the son he hardly ever sees. Like Michael and Lincoln, my own father has been mostly absent from my life over the last ten years, and I spent a large part of the past summer reconnecting with him. Some of the exchanges my father and I had this year were similar to ones the characters have in Over the Top. He and I are very different people with very different interests and lifestyles, but the one common ground we've always had is the enjoyment we get from watching movies. This movie isn't a great drama, but I can definitely connect with its story.
 
Unfortunately, the times when I have gone out on the road with my dad, I have never been witness to the world of underground trucker arm wrestling that OTT claims exists.



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