Over the Top (1987)
"Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) is a struggling trucker who's trying to rebuild his life. After the death of his wife, he tries to make amends with his son who he left behind years earlier. Upon their first meeting, his son doesn't think too highly of him until he enters the nation-wide arm wrestling competition in Las Vegas."
The 80's are home to some of the most entertaining movies ever made. You can try to prove me wrong here, but if those movies weren't as good as I claim, why does the current generation of filmmakers find the incessant urge to "remake" said films? A glorious time when action movies were filled with cheesy one liners, explosions, and macho men and yet still friendly enough that the entire family could tune in and watch. I've been told numerous times by Netflix that I should take the time to watch this, and upon urging of my reviewing compatriot TPB, I finally got off my duff and watched it - and since I watched it I figured I'd drop off a review, because I'm nice like that.
Lincoln Hawk (Sylvester Stallone) is a trucker who hasn't seen his family in (what we are led to believe) years. On request of his ill wife Christina (Susan Blakely) he goes to pick up his son Michael (David Mendenhall) for some bonding as they go to see her - much to the dismay of Christina's father Jason (Robert Loggia) who seems to have a distinct hatred of Lincoln. What ensues is a father son bonding movie, and what we have come to expect of such a film, until we get closer to the end. Along the way, however, we get some arm wrestling scenes, including some 80's style thematics through character interaction (believe in yourself, and you can do anything!).
Eventually, the inevitable happens (as the box blurb already ruined) and Christina dies during surgery. A distraught Michael goes into the "I hate you" phase and runs back to his grandfather, and after some thought Lincoln decides this time he isn't going to leave his kid (we never really find out why he left the first time, but by the end of the movie assume heavily it had to do with Jason). This leads to one bit of the film that makes it really be over the top (har har, I made a funny) when the grandfathers estate guards refuse to let Lincoln in - so he drives the truck through the gate, a fountain, the lawn, and straight into the front door. The plot then thickens a bit as we see Michael at an impasse as to what he really wants, and move into the final segment (what the Netflix synopsis had me believe this entire movie was about): the arm wrestling world finals.
You see, Lincoln has everything he's worth down on himself winning, with all that and a grand prize bigger truck (the fancy kind with the live-in cabins) on the line - things necessary if he's to take his kid on the road with him so they can live together. We could guess as to what's going to happen, and if you know 80's movies I'm sure you already do, but I'll leave it up to you to go and watch it for sure. Let it be said, however, that this is some of the most exciting arm wrestling the average person will probably ever see in their lives.
Wardrobe here isn't anything fancy to shake a stick at - the richer folk (like Jason) always appearing in suits everywhere they go (even Michael spends a good deal of the movie very well dressed, in his little military uniform from school) whereas Lincoln is always seen in jeans, suspenders, and a baseball cap that makes him a rather believable trucker guy. When we hit the phase where arm wrestling takes center stage, the characters themselves get a bit more interesting - once again being over the top in their actions (one drinks motor oil as a pre-match thing) and taking on a bit more personality than most the other background characters. Settings are pretty well ranged as well, going from the truck itself (and truck stops) to the elaborate mansion house of Jason and the finale at the Hilton hotel in Vegas.
One of the (arguably) best parts of movies in this time period is the soundtracks. Me, being a fan of 80's music particularly hair-metal am of course a bit biased here - which isn't to say that I can't appreciate a finely scored classical or pulsing techno soundtrack when it's fitting the movie. The benefit of using actual period music, however, is it's a lot easier to get a song by a group you know - like Asia, Kenny Loggins, or Sammy Hagar - stuck in your head then something that's more of a simple mood or scene enhancer that a lot of movies have. Not only is it something that can get stuck in your head, but the songs also do a wonderful job of tying in with what's happening on screen in more ways, as you can start getting the lyrical meanings or literal lyrics tied in as well as the simple energy and mood of the audio selection.
Actors do a good job here, and anytime you run into something that feels like it could have been delivered better than it was, you mostly feel as though the script is to blame then the actual actor itself ( a few of Stallone's lines at the end, for example). The kid and his dad have a pretty good working chemistry going, although the constant wish-wash between love and hate is a bit jarring - albeit it could be entirely true to form for a kid in that situation, so i can't really complain given a kids tendency for mood swings. The interactions between the father and the grandfather also come off with some intent behind them, and you really can get the feel for the fact that somewhere on some level these two really don't like each other.
As for the characters themselves, we see the most development and depth between Lincoln and Michael (obviously). We learn a lot about Lincoln by how he acts and how he interacts with Michael, and through Michael we get to see more aspects about Lincoln then I previously stated (such as the importance of believing in yourself). As a stand alone character, we can see Michael pick up things from his time with his father, and actually take to heart the stuff he learns, but at the same time he is a kid so there are moments when it seems he just throws it all out the window and regresses to the start of the movie (only to get it all back later). Jason isn't exactly the deepest character, but we get to know him enough through screen time that we know that we don't like him, at all. He's a jerk, and a bit of the stereotypical silver-platter rich snooty guy who always gets it his way.
All in all, the film is a pretty good family feel-good movie, with some mild action spots. The arm wrestling at the end is potentially the most excited you will ever be to watch someone arm wrestle, and the general pacing is well thought out and executed. The music is catchy, and the characters fleshed out enough to enjoy it and the moral thoughts it places out in the open. As a matter of fact, it almost makes you want to go out there and take down someone bigger than you in arm wrestling, just to prove how over the top you can be.