Over the Top (1987)

I always respected how Sylvester Stallone tries to make a lot of his big screen action heroes something of blue collared, under appreciated men who are just working to get by. There was “Rocky” that helped boost how interesting boxing can be, and while arm wrestling never took off in the eighties, “Over the Top” is a decent action film about an estranged father and son making amends. “Over the Top” is admittedly a childhood favorite, and a movie I watched over a thousand times as a kid. Stallone is great, Robert Loggia is great, and director Menahem Globan charismatically films every single instance of arm wrestling as an epic moment of pride, and manhood.

Today the movie is considered silly by many, and sure, while it has its moments of goofiness, it’s still a damn good action film, with a great turn by Stallone. Robert Loggia also comes out with a very well developed character, too, despite this being a Stallone vehicle. Sans the nostalgia, “Over the Top” is an interesting and unique action that sees Stallone playing workaday protagonist Lincoln Hawk. After leaving his family years prior, he is tasked with getting his estranged son Michael out of his military school and living with him. But Michael’s grandfather Jason (played by Robert Loggia) will do anything to ensure Lincoln doesn’t get to adopt Michael, and plans to keep Michael as his rightful son.

With Lincoln facing a big arm wrestling competition, he and Michael begin bonding on the road, all the while evading Jason and his henchmen at every turn. With “Over the Top,” it’s a pretty simple sports drama with nothing all too convoluted. It takes arm wrestling so seriously it can become comically melodramatic, sure, but beyond that it’s a fun road trip film with some great scenes. There’s a lot of the class dynamic between Lincoln and his son that goes hand in hand with their attempts to bond as a father and son. There’s a very good sequence in a candy shop where Lincoln encourages Michael to arm wrestle a trio of bullies, as well as a sweet moment where Michael learns how to drive a truck.

Despite being a tribute (pfft!) to the goofy sport of arm wrestling, the film’s secondary antagonist is sadly under developed. That’s a shame, since Rick Zumwalt is a menacing fellow. And as much as the writers try, it’s tough to turn Loggia’s character in to a villain, especially when you consider the circumstances involving his hatred for Lincoln. Sure, he’s a rich old bastard at the end of the day, but hardly an evil one. In either case, “Over the Top” is a fun action film, and a better road trip drama about a dad trying to rebuild his relationship with his son. It’s not traditionally considered a Stallone masterpiece, but I sure as hell love it.