There are films out there that defy belief, and most of them star Sylvester Stallone. Over the Top is such a film; a Stallone-penned drama about arm-wrestling. Let’s call it Rocky Elbowa. Or Raging Bullshit.
That arm-wrestling cannot carry a movie will come as a surprise to no one bar Stallone and the idiots who helped him make this film. Equally unsurprising, Stallone plays a hard bastard with a ridiculous name: Lincoln Hawk (or occasionally Hawks, depending on which take they’re using), a trucker determined to win over his estranged son Michael (David Mendenhall); the worst child in the history of children. All manner of non-sensical plot-points are set up to make Hawk winning custody of Michael contingent on his winning the arm-wrestling championships in Las Vegas. You know the ones.
This film is so utterly incompetent in every respect that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Let’s start with a list of things Hawk deems it appropriate to do in an effort to win over his son:
- Takes him to a truck stop and leaves him unattended
- Forces him to arm-wrestle
- Makes him sleep in his truck
- Makes him drive his truck
- Drives a truck into his grandfather’s house
- Takes him out of school to start a trucking company
Clearly, the guy can’t be trusted to look after a kid any more than he can be trusted to write a screenplay. Stallone’s performance is so bad that it’s almost impossible to believe that this is the same man currently generating awards buzz for Creed. Once we’re over the irony of Sly Stallone driving an articulated lorry, we’re confronted with some of the most depressing and schmaltzy family drama of the 1980s, involving the slow death of Michael’s mother (Susan Blakely) and the slower death of Stallone’s career.
Bizarrely, this makes the risible arm-wrestling scenes the highlight of the movie. In sequences that look more like gurning championships, huge men drip with sweat, hold hands and pull faces usually reserved for toilet cubicles – all in hilarious slow-motion, to a dire ’80s soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder and Kenny Loggins. “Over the top” doesn’t begin to cover it. Meanwhile, an announcer declares: “The winner here tonight will walk out with a $250,000 truck!” Did anyone read the script? What moron green-lit this? Did Stallone have to work exclusively on building up his right arm?
Even for a movie about arm-wrestling, Over the Top is truckin’ awful. And not in a fun way. It’s played with such mind-boggling sincerity, with such a glaring disregard for logic, that it’s a strong contender for the worst film ever made. They’d have more luck making a chess-boxing movie.