- Movie Rating -

Over the Top (1987)

| February 13, 1987

I will confess that I had no idea that professional arm wrestling actually existed.  Not only does it exist, but apparently there’s an entire league set up for guys who want to do this.  That doesn’t really surprise me.  I recently learned that there’s an entire professional league for speed knitting.  I can’t knock anyone for passion.

I will also confess that I believe that there is room in the world for a movie about a guy who participates in professional arm wrestling – perhaps a documentary – and observe that Over the Top is not it.  What could be a potentially interesting look at a rather silly sport activity has been hammered down to a family drama with an annoying kid, a villainous millionaire grandfather and a churlish mother who has one scene on the telephone and then dies.

The story involves Stallone as Lincoln Hawk, a truck driver whose life hit the skids some years back.  His wife, before the phone call, wants him to reunite with the son that he hasn’t seen in 10 years but his efforts are stalled by his father-in-law (Robert Loggia) who not only has custody of the boy but also apparently all the money in the world.  So, naturally, he’s a jerk.

Stallone drives to his son’s military school to offer him a piece of advice that I think even The Italian Stallion would find schmalzy and overwrought: “The world meets nobody halfway.  When you want something you gotta take it.”  This is addressed to Michael, played by David Mendenhall in a performance that, to put it lightly, works your last nerve.  He’s whiney and squeaky and aggravating and, truth be told, kind of gives child actors a bad name. 

There probably isn’t anyone who knows how to rouse and audience like Stallone – it’s what made the Rocky pictures such a success.  But I’m afraid that what is employed here will only inspire bad laughs.  I kind of enjoyed the Las Vegas arena where the arm-wrestling championship takes place.  The guys all look like professional wrestlers on steroids, they grunt and scowl and sneer as if they’re about to give birth.  When the combatant’s hands get too sweaty, the ref brings out The Strap, a device that will keep their hands from slipping apart.  That’s a detail that I didn’t know and further didn’t understand why it needed to be addressed.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Drama