5-Word 365 #121 – Over The Top

I did start writing this as a straight-forward review of today’s film, but it took an odd philosophical turn on me towards the end. Still, it proved to be a welcome respite after yesterday.

Over The Top

Apparently, all truckers arm-wrestle.

Lincoln Hawk, a down-at-heel trucker and arm-wrestler, convinces his estranged wife to let him get to know the son he walked out on ten years previously. He picks the boy up from military school in Colorado to drive him back home to California, but the boy’s rich grandfather does everything in his power to separate the two. Can Lincoln and his son bond after all these years? Will Lincoln succeed at the (conveniently timed) World Arm-Wrestling Championship in Las Vegas? Will grandpa learn to appreciate his wayward son-in-law’s strength of character? Come with me as we find out the answers to these, and so many other questions.

If ever there was a time when the world needed a movie about an arm-wrestling trucker, it was the eighties. In case you hadn’t already guessed, this flick is from the legendary producing pair of Golan-Globus (The Delta Force, Missing In Action, most of the cheesiest action movies of that great cheesy decade), and was actually directed by Menahem Golan himself. As well as starring as Lincoln, Sylvester Stallone also co-wrote the script and managed to divert half of the $25 million budget straight to his own back pocket. But is it any good? Objectively, no. The script is formulaic at best, and some of the acting is appalling, particularly young David Mendenhall as Lincoln’s son Michael. Stallone himself is surprisingly good though, much more restrained than in his two previous flicks, Rocky IV and Cobra. Robert Loggia however steals all his scenes (of course) as Michael’s grandpa Jason. Golan’s direction can charitably be considered workmanlike; it’s all very generic for the time. There’s no sense of style or individuality about it. A case in point: the climactic arm-wrestling tournament is a dead ringer for the All-Valley Under-18’s Karate Championship, only with large, sweaty men instead of a bunch of teenagers in pyjamas.


The story doesn’t really stand up to much scrutiny, and there are some plot holes that fifteen-year-old Michael could drive a stolen SUV through, but with a film like this you really expect that sort of shoddiness. On the other hand though, you’ve got the soundtrack. Filled with the kind of music that only exists in eighties movies, all the songs were written by Giorgio Moroder but a bunch of big names (and Frank Stallone) were drafted in to sing. Artists like Sammy Hagar, Eddie Money, Kenny Loggins and Asia all combine with the on-screen action to root the film in that mid-eighties sweet spot where even the most ridiculously bad film could be saved by its own inherent charm. Over The Top is a bad film, but it will hold a place in my heart between Delta Force and Cannonball Run as crap that I can’t help but enjoy despite myself.

This poor kid looks like he’s about to shit out a kidney

Maybe it’s just timing. This was the era I grew up in; this was the time when my love of movies was being formed so I will always have an affection for these films that overrides normal critical thinking. I’m not blind to their faults, but they just don’t seem to bother me all that much. Am I the only one this happens to? Speak up, people. Do you find yourself liking (or even loving) flicks that you know are garbage, just because they come from that personal golden age? I’m serious here, I really want to know. This concept may warrant further discussion some day.


  1. todayiwatchedamovie · May 1, 2012

    Yes. There are several movies I secretly love despite them not being that great…simply because of nostalgic reasons.

  2. Mark Walker · May 1, 2012

    My god, this is a blast from the past. I forgot this film even existed. It’s a childhood guilty pleasure.

  3. fernandorafael · May 1, 2012

    Great review. Had never heard of this film before; it reminds me a little of last year’s Real Steel.

    “Do you find yourself liking (or even loving) flicks that you know are garbage, just because they come from that personal golden age?”
    Yes! the super dumb comedy Rat Race, which makes me laugh like an idiot.

    • Ryan McNeely · May 3, 2012

      Rat Race is certainly super dumb. It was one of the first movies I had on DVD (I was a bit late to that party) but I loaned it to a friend and never saw it again. It was funny though, in a really silly way

  4. AndyWatchesMovies · May 2, 2012

    Most 80s films like this are total crap but they are enjoyable crap. I think it must have something to do with growing up in the era, but they might also just be fun films that are crap.

    • Ryan McNeely · May 3, 2012

      The 80s seemed to be good at that, making bad films that were still so charming and likeable.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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