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Film / Breaker! Breaker!

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Breaker! Breaker! is a 1977 action movie directed by Don Hulette and starring Chuck Norris in his first lead role.

Norris plays John David "J.D." Dawes, trucker, badass and all-around nice guy. After JD's younger brother, Billy, goes missing in the middle of his first solo freight run, he and his sweet custom van go out to the notorious town of Texas City, California. There he befriends Arlene (Terry O'Connor), a waitress and single mom and the only person in town who isn't openly hostile to him (other than Arney, the mentally challenged gas station attendant). He runs afoul of town patriarch Judge Joshua Trimmings (George Murdock) and his band of corrupt deputies led by Sgt. Strode (Don Gentry).

There is a reason this film usually isn't mentioned among Norris' other early works like Good Guys Wear Black or The Octagon. The script is threadbare, the acting is sub-par and the entire film has a no-budget exploitation feel (without the exploitation elements).

The film is also available as a RiffTrax Video on Demand download.

Breaker! Breaker! contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The Barnum: Judge Josh, who has basically set up his own little fief in Texas City, frequently firing up the citizens with pride for the town and promising prosperity while he exploits them and anyone who comes to Texas City for all they're worth.
  • Book Ends: A quite ironic set: the movie begins with Trimmings showcasing to the citizens of Texas City the documents he just received that declare the town a full official city and his promise to improve it. The film ends with Texas City dying at the hands of a bunch of heroic truckers going full demolition derby on the place in revenge for Trimmings' corruption and a play back of Trimmings' words over the montage of the burning town.
  • Car Meets House: Exaggerated with the truck convoy wrecking Texas City.
  • The Cavalry: The impromptu convoy of truckers who swoop in and rescue JD. Though they don't really "rescue" JD so much as "cause a commotion that ultimately ends up distracting JD's would-be executioner, allowing him to escape."
  • Deep South: Well, Southern California, not that there's too much of a difference. Texas City is as stereotypical a redneck Wretched Hive as you get.
  • Destination Defenestration: This film marks the first appearance of Norris' trademark "Jump-kick the bad guy through a window" maneuver.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Billy is warned by JD and others to steer clear of Texas City. One anonymous CB exchange (Strode is on the other end) is all it takes to get Billy to change course and head straight towards it, and into a trap. Once he's "tried" for fraudulent crimes, he also attacks the cops and tries to escape instead of simply paying the annoying but completely affordable $250 fee. Billy took an inconvenience and turned it into multiple felonies.
    • It should be noted though that $250 in 1977, adjusted for inflation, would equal over $1200, far beyond the amount a working class trucker would carry on their person. Though, that being said, it still would be a better idea to try and raise the money than to fight a bunch of cops and be thrown in jail or worse.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When Arlene puts out the call for help, every trucker in range takes the opportunity to ride in and literally destroy the town. Somewhat justified in that Texas City had a reputation for abusing truckers and stealing their loads, not to mention the early mention by one of JD’s friends that Strode beat her trucker husband so badly that his right side is paralyzed.
  • The Dragon: Strode, though Deputy Boles is a more proactive villain, with Boles being the one to face JD in the showdown at the climax.
  • Dumb Is Good: Of the two adults in town that are nice to JD, one of them is a mentally challenged Manchild.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Inverted - JD was Kung-Fu Fighting everybody else.
  • Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit: Judge Josh, complete with Panama hat.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Judge Josh puts on a very jovial demeanor for most of the townsfolk in Texas City, but it's pretty obvious that he's an egomaniacal despot who only sees his constituents as exploitable rubes and/or his personal goon squad, and any attempt he makes at being good-natured is tainted by his naturally slimy, smarmy demeanor.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Arney steps in to keep JD from being executed by Wade, and ends up gut-shot for his troubles.
  • Informed Ability: Strode is made out to be a menacing, dangerous brute of a man. He turns out to be a paunchy bully who gets his ass kicked by JD at every turn. In the end it's HIS right hand man, Deputy Boles, who gives JD the most trouble and fights him at the climax.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: During the climax, Arlene manages to get to a CB radio and put out a distress call.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: JD is gut-shot from less than three feet away with a normal caliber bullet by Wade, yet he is able to rescue his brother and fight Boles in a long, drawn out brawl as if it were just a minor inconvenience.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Arney, though his brother, Wade, seems to make sure Arney doesn't know they are doing anything illegal.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Wade's reaction after killing Arney.
  • Neutral Female: Defied Trope. As soon as Arlene learns JD is in trouble, she manages to escape from Judge Josh's goons and call for help.
  • No Ending: Once the climactic showdown between JD and Boles is over, one quick shot of the burning remains of Texas City later and roll credits.
  • Noodle Incident: It's never made clear *how* Tex Trimmings was killed. Arlene claims Judge Josh was responsible, and the judge's accusation that Arlene drove Tex away by being a nagging shrew of a wife is clearly a lie, but otherwise nothing more is shared about how Tex died.
  • Police Are Useless: The California Highway Patrol seemingly stays away from Texas City. The Texas City cops are all Judge Josh's goons.
  • Posthumous Character: Tex Trimmings, Judge Josh's son and Arlene's husband, who the judge exploits the memory of in order to fire up the townsfolk, even when Arlene makes it clear that Tex hated Josh's guts, and claims he met his demise because Josh couldn't corrupt him.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: The army of truckers who form The Cavalry at the end. A big part of the reason they ride in to help JD is that It's Personal.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The main force of the plot, though JD is a bit light on the "roaring" part... up until he sees Boles brutalizing his tied-up brother, at which point it becomes VERY literal when he kicks Boles through a wall while letting out a battle cry.
  • Small-Town Tyrant: Judge Josh, to the letter.
  • Smug Snake: Judge Josh. He is very aware that he owns that miserable town and flagrantly abuses his power every chance he gets.
  • Soiled City on a Hill: Texas City. The movie ends with the town destroyed.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The only named character whose fate we know for sure is Arney. See No Ending.
  • Wretched Hive: Texas City apparently runs on moonshine running and truck hijacking. They were openly boasting about it in a town hall meeting JD walks in on.