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Film / Over the Top

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"The world meets nobody halfway."

1987 drama and action film produced and directed by Menahem Golan of The Cannon Group and starring Sylvester Stallone as Lincoln Hawk, a truck driver who is also a famed arm wrestler. For unexplained reasons, he walked out on his wife and son years ago. His wife, who is in the hospital, asks Lincoln to pick up his son Michael from Military School to see her before her surgery. At first Michael and Lincoln are like oil and water. Lincoln makes an honest attempt to bond. Michael eventually softens, until he gets home to learn that the mom died from complications and his grandfather is fighting for custody, and hates Lincoln's guts. Lincoln decides to put all his money on the line in a Vegas arm wrestling showdown to start over again. At some point Michael realizes that Lincoln truly does love him.

This film provides examples of:

  • Award-Bait Song: Meet Me Half Way by Kenny Loggins.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Michael, Lincoln's son, is a little know it all who has no problems acting out and being unlikable no matter how much we are supposed to sympathize with him.
  • Casual Car Giveaway: The classic "You can't park there/You keep it" exchange pops up when Michael drives himself to the airport and ditches a truck. In the RiffTrax commentary for the movie, Mike Nelson helpfully informs listeners that "You can't park there/You keep it" exchanges are legally binding contracts in over 15 states.
  • Catchphrase: "The world meets no one halfway."
  • Chekhov's Skill: Good thing Lincoln taught Michael how to drive.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Pretty much every arm wrestler, especially during the film's climax (see Ham-to-Ham Combat below).
  • Cool Car: Lincoln's semi.
    • The Volvo tractor truck at the end is pretty nice, too.
  • Covers Always Lie: Looking at the poster at the top of this page, one would probably be surprised to find out that this is not a typical Stallone action flick. It's actually a lot like Kramer vs. Kramer, only with ARM WRESTLING!
  • Deconstruction: Of the desperate father trying to get back his child. When Lincoln attempts to get Michael back by ramming his truck into the Cutler estate, he is promptly arrested. Michael's grandfather then uses the arrest as leverage to get Lincoln to sign custody of Michael over to him.
  • Disappeared Dad: Lincoln has been on the road for most of his son's life, driving a truck and arm wrestling. Subverted in that he regularly wrote to his son and wife, double subverted in that Michael never got any of his dad's letters. No solid reason is ever given for Lincoln's estrangement; when asked, he merely says "I made some mistakes."
  • Graceful Loser: After Lincoln wins the tournament and Michael, Cutler simply watches Lincoln and Michael in silence and admiration.
    • Bull. Even though he threatens his opponents and even punches Hawk before the final confrontation he goes for a handshake afterwards without any aggression whatsoever. His menacing behaviour was psychological warfare rather than genuine hostility.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Come on, the final showdown between Bull and Lincoln for the world championship, extreme closeups of each man grunting and sweating and screaming in slow motion! That was a total ham-off!
    • Pretty much all the arm wrestling matches, in fact. There seems to be a major psychological warfare aspect to professional arm wrestling. Special credit goes to the arm wrestler who eats a lit cigar, and drinks a pint of motor oil before his match.
  • I Gave My Word: Lincoln agrees to his sick wife's wishes to meet his estranged son. Even though the son hasn't seen or heard from Lincoln in a long time, or the fact that the Grandfather hates Lincoln, Lincoln is going to see this through.
  • Jerkass: Jason Cutler. Wanting to be around Michael and hating Lincoln because of him leaving is understandable. Nevertheless, hiding all of Lincoln's letters to Michael (letting Michael think his father didn't care about him), and trying to kidnap Michael, were pretty rotten things to do. So it's hard to really feel bad for him.
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: Jason Cutler, again. He can provide for Michael way better than his long absent father who barely makes his ends meet. At least until he wins the tournament, but even then Jason can't be sure Lincoln won't slip into poverty again.
  • Large Ham: Bull Hurley, several of the opposing arm wrestlers in fact like Grizzly, but Bull is the biggest (no pun intended) example.
  • Life Imitates Art: Invoked Sort of.Over The Top was the name of an actual arm-wrestling tournament that came about once the movie was approved for production. Organizers worked closely with producers at Cannon Films in hosting the tournament while the film was getting made. The contest was described as "the biggest event in armwrestling history." And boy did it deliver. Beginning with the first qualifier in Beverly Hills in August 1985, the competition lasted a year throughout North America and included qualifying events in Europe, Israel and Japan. The finale took place on July 26th, 1986, with an 18-hour marathon tournament at the Las Vegas Hilton. The movie featured many real-life armwrestlers and footage from the Vegas finals, so in case you were wondering, yes, those are indeed real arm wrestlers and those were indeed real arm wrestling contests and audiences. Stallone's scenes were filmed one day after the finals with the same crowds as paid extras.
  • Masochist's Meal: John Grizzly swallows a lit cigar and drinks motor oil before his matches with Lincoln. He needed some Alka-Seltzer afterwards.
  • Mirrored Confrontation Shot: Between Lincoln and Bull on the poster.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Arm wrestling!
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever it was that caused Hawk to leave his family. When Michael brings it up to her mother, she just says "He had his reasons."
  • Novelization: By Joel Don Humphreys.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Grandfather Jason Cutler, who hates Lincoln and while in the right that Lincoln (a simple trucker) cannot provide to Michael in the way that he (a millionaire) can, still tries to invoke Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! and makes a continuous barrage of Kick the Dog moments in his single-minded quest to keep father and son apart, capping it off with Michael discovering that Jason hid all correspondence that Lincoln ever sent to his family to make it look like he never cared for them and arriving to Las Vegas when Jason escapes to go cheer his dad (after Lincoln signed the documents that granted Mr. Cutler full custody of the kid, and Hawke even points out that this pretty much means Cutler won) to bribe Lincoln with a brand-new truck and money under the proviso that he disappears permanently from the Cutlers' sights (instead, Lincoln decides to go win and then get his son back).
  • Plot Hole: It is explained several times during the Las Vegas arm wrestling tournament that it is a double-elimination tournament, where you need to lose twice to be knocked out. This is, of course, a convenient way to let Lincoln Hawk feel the sting of defeat and still come back to win it all, but the film ignores a critical aspect of double-elimination tourneys. The final pairing of this tournament was between the winners' finalist (Hurley) and the losers' finalist (Hawk), but if the losers' finalist wins, there is supposed to be a rematch, since that was only the winners' finalist's first loss. That somehow doesn't happen in this tournament, since Lincoln Hawk is immediately declared the champion after beating Bull Hurley.
    • It could be that the double elimination format only applied to BEFORE the final match, and that said final match was a "Sudden Death" situation.
      • What can't be overlooked, though, is how Lincoln's last name goes back and forth from "Hawk" to "Hawks" and to "Hawk" again.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Bull certainly believes this, outright saying "second place sucks".
  • Secret Weapon: "Over the Top!" Lincoln's method of gaining leverage in some of his arm wrestling matches by slipping his fingers over the opponents.
  • The Bet: Lincoln bet $7,000 on himself, after being told that the odds were really stacked against him, a 20-1 chance. Winning the tournament would grant him a total $490,000 payoff ($7,000x20 = $140,000, $100,000 for winning the tournament, and the Volvo Semi worth $250,000). Thankfully, it all worked in his favor.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Every scene where Jason Cutler and Lincoln Hawk have a conversation has Cutler trying to deliver one of these to Lincoln, as a Running Gag showcasing his general jerkassery. Lincoln couldn't give less of a damn about them.
  • Title Drop: It refers to the Secret Weapon listed above and is said throughout the movie.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Well, Lincoln is played by Sylvester Stallone, so...
  • Unusual Euphemism: Bull Hurley keeps the movie at a respectable PG rating by twice swapping in the word "shit" where an F-bomb would have made more sense.
    "He's got no shittin' business being here."
    "Gimme your shittin' arm!!"
  • "Well Done, Dad!" Guy: Lincoln spends most of the movie trying to win his son's respect.