As the Name Suggests 'Over the Top'
Sylvester Stallone's "Over the Top" is an "oh dear" movie, in the fact that who ever thought a movie about arm wrestling would be entertaining was completely misguided. In what is undoubtedly an obvious attempt to draw on the popularity of the "Rocky" style under dog style story where we are prompted to cheer on the hero and feel motivated by his courage, "Over the Top" is sadly lacking. Even the additional element of a father and son bonding plot does little, if anything to add something of any substance to make this movie any more entertaining.
When Lincoln Hawk (Sylvester Stallone - Cobra) is contacted by his dying ex wife asking him to look after his estranged 12 year old son, Michael (David Mendenhall), he duly obliges. After a rocky start, the two of them start to bond as they travel the road in Hawk's big truck. But when his mother dies he blames Hawk and returns to live with his grandfather (Robert Loggia - Return to Me). The only thing Hawk can do is concentrate on his ambition to becoming the World Arm Wrestling champion in the up coming contest.
As already mentioned, "Over the Top" relies heavily on the Rocky-esque under dog story, in this case the under dog is Lincoln Hawk a struggling big truck driver and wannabe arm wrestling champ who feels remorse for abandoning his wife and child many years earlier. The actual initial set up shows some early signs of promise but sadly fails to deliver on all accounts.
Whilst the first part of "Over the Top" mainly concentrates on the bonding between Hawk and his son it never really gives any meat to a skeletal storyline. In fact this bonding storyline could easily have been an after thought in an attempt to pad out a movie about arm wrestling, as whilst father and son do manage to bond you never really get the journey of them doing so. One minute the precocious Michael hates his father and the next minute he worships him. It doesn't help that the interaction between the stars fails to convince you that there is any real love between them and at times is as the title says, Over The Top.
So to be honest the real emphasis of "Over the Top" is about the arm wrestling, but unlike in a "Rocky" movie where it is obviously the main focus, they seem to have struggled to find enough material to pad out the movie. Of course we are treated to all the standard scenes, such as the choreographed training routine to a pumping soundtrack which allows Stallone to show of his muscle bound physique, but this fails to be anything but laughable as the choice of music is terrible. What is even worse is when we get to the arm wrestling championships where they try to imitate the power of the climatic "Rocky "boxing match but in the arm wrestling arena. With a bunch of arm wrestlers who look like they are part of Norwegian rock band Lordi, we get treated to blood, sweat, tears, grimacing and slow motion camera shots but sadly no real drama or power.
By the time we get to the final big match and hear the competitions commentator screaming "This is unbelievable", I started to agree, it is unbelievable, unbelievably bad. Where as in many similar movies these big climax scenes are packed with drama and give you an emotional buzz of positive thinking, this one is just pitiful and at times the painful expressions on the actors face are just hysterical. Add to all this some abysmal and often cliché dialogue and you have what could be quite a decent movie turning into quite a painful slog.
It seems that back in the 80s, when "Over The Top" was made, Stallone made a living in playing similar underdog roles, but by 1987 not only was the concept running a bit thin but so was Stallone's appeal in this sort of role. The trouble with Stallone in the role of Lincoln Hawk is just about everything starting with the fact that playing a similar role to his iconic Rocky Balboa is only go to lead to comparisons. But that is not the only problem; the biggest problem is that there is absolutely no passion in his performance, everything about it from his delivery of lines to his actions is limp. You could slap him round the face with a wet kipper and you wouldn't get a re-action. Not that I am expecting a great performance from Stallone, and considering the material it may be expected, but he is definitely capable of much more than this.
Sharing the spotlight is David Mendenhall who basically portrays a precocious brat who having been educated at a military school and been cared for by his mega rich grand dad resents his father. I suppose I should be sympathetic seeing that he was only a child but I never thought it would be possible to be less convincing than Stallone. Like Stallone his performance lacks passion and fails to convince me on all levels, resorting to over the top gestures rather than effective realism. Sadly the one really decent actor, Robert Loggia who plays the boys grandfather, is sadly underused. As for all the extras who play arm wrestlers, well as I have already said they look like they should be in the rock band Lordi and definitely can't act to save there lives.
The only thing left to mention is the soundtrack which sadly does nothing to rescue the terrible "Over the Top". With a predominantly 80s rock track they seem to have swayed towards the lighter end of the market making it very weak, failing to give the movie the life and power it needs.
What this all boils down to is that these sorts of movies should be filled with passion and drama which fills the viewer with a sense of power that they can overcome what ever problems they have, sadly "Over The Top" fails to achieve even a tiny bit of this. Whilst the idea of tying an underdog story to a father and son bonding story shows great promise, setting it in the world of arm wrestling, whilst different, really is a poorly conceived idea. Relying heavily on stock scenes and filming styles from other movies in the same genre, mainly the far superior "Rocky", "Over The Top" comes across as nothing more than a lack lustre imitation.