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  Over the Top Strongarm Tactics
Year: 1987
Director: Menahem Golan
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Robert Loggia, Susan Blakely, Rick Zumwalt, David Mendenhall, Chris McCarty, Terry Funk, Bob Beattie, Allan Graf, Magic Schwartz, Bruce Way, Jimmy Keegan, John Braden, Tony Munafo, Randy Raney
Genre: Drama, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Lincoln Hawk (Sylvester Stallone) has heard from his family while out on the road in his capacity as a trucker, a family he has had barely any contact with for the past twelve years. He has hardly met his son Michael (David Mendenhall) when he shows up at the boy's graduation from military academy, but now news has reached him that his wife (Susan Blakely) is gravely ill and he feels he has to take his son back to see her himself. His wealthy father-in-law Jason Cutler (Robert Loggia) will have something to say about that - can Lincoln win the respect of Michael?

When Alan Partridge pitched the television show concept of "Arm Wrestling with Chas and Dave" oh how we laughed, but he might have been onto something because the pitch of "Arm Wrestling with Sylvester Stallone" was actually made into a movie, and Over the Top was it. In a move that could best be described as pandering anti-intellectualism, our salt of the earth hero, played by Stallone, proves that good old solid masculine brawn wins out over any femininity that might cause your own son to prefer the pampered millionaire life.

In fact, in spite of our star being a pampered millionaire himself at the time, the script which he co-wrote appeared to be going out of its way to patronise the working man and hold up his dreams of proving himself in a physical arena to be the acme of all that was manly. We can tell early on that things will indeed get physical when Hawk and Michael are in a diner, with dad tolerating his offspring's health food kick - proof the child needs toughening up - and one of the patrons demands he arm wrestle with him. Hawk proceeds to do so, win, and leave his son dismayed at what he has seen, accusing him of being a "hustler": yup, Hawk has a mountain to climb, and not simply thanks to the name "Mike Hawk" being an unfortunate double entendre. Thanks, dad!

But considering Michael looks down on Lincoln for not reading books, and more to the point spends fifty percent of his scenes crying, it's apparent to us that he's growing up to be a dreaded girly man, as Arnold Schwarzenegger would have it. He didn't inherit his grandfather's aggression when he was raising him, but Hawk reaches out to him the only way he knows how and persuades him to, yes, arm wrestle a young punk which after another bout of tears Michael wins. This is pretty much following the template set down by such hoary old movies as The Champ, but here it was seen through the filter of Cannon Films, so there had to be a big, sweaty, muscular man in there somewhere.

Actually, there were quite a few, as the last act moves to the genuine Arm Wrestling Championships, an event that the uninitiated may find hard to believe truly existed. Many of the stars of that sport appeared in this to show us how it was done, and though they may have towered over Stallone and looked to have arms the circumference of his chest measurement, he still manages to get to the final. Can you guess what happens then? Apart from the sweating and the grunting, that was? Well, it gets even more ridiculous, as Michael drives from his Los Angeles mansion home (which Hawk formerly tried to destroy with his truck in an unorthodox custody bid), hops on a plane, and winds up in Las Vegas to cheer on his dad who he's had a change of heart about having gotten a taste for life on the road. With its unwavering conviction that to find an audience this had to be as dumbed down as possible, Over the Top was far more effective as a camp comedy. Music by Giorgio Moroder.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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