Over the Top is a 1987 film co-written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. The film tells the tale of a down on his luck trucker who competes in organized arm wrestling. After his wife dies, he must win back his son from his father-in-law by becoming World Champion of Arm Wrestling. While the film did not achieve as much critical recognition as other Stallone Underdog Sports movies, it became a fan favorite especially among home video purchasers.
Washin' Stuff with My Hose.
Lincoln Hawk (Sylvester Stallone), a long haul truck driver, delivers a load and prepares to meet his son. His son, Michael Cutler ( David Mendenhall), proudly marches in an end-of-year military school review parade. The other families remark on the peculiar Hawk as he heads towards the Administrative Offices of his son's military school. Unaware that Lincoln is looking for him, Michael prepares to board a limousine sent by his grandfather Jason Cutler. However, a higher level student calls him into the Colonel's office. Michael Cutler dutifully drops everything and hurries to his superior's call.
You're My Father?
The Colonel introduces Michael to his father Lincoln. They are estranged, and the meeting is awkward (made more so by the fact that Lincoln Hawk is standing next to a statue of a hawk). Michael refuses to go with the muscular, Italian trucker. At this point, Michael reveals himself to be a colossal jackass. The Colonel informs him that his mother has requested that Michael reunite with Lincoln by joining him on a cross country trip to Los Angeles. Michael reluctantly joins the uncouth brute in his truck -- which is creepily wallpapered with pictures of Michael.
Creepy Stalker Photos.
As the journey begins, Michael further cements his position as jerk. He constantly insults Lincoln on everything he does and is. Michael is upset that Lincoln Hawk has never attempted to communicate with him. Hawk explains he has been sending constant dispatches. Unknown to both of them, Michael's grandfather has been interdicting the correspondence. The relationship cools in the cabin of the truck. Michaels tricks Hawk into pulling the truck over. Then the young man in military garb makes an unsuccessful run for freedom through oncoming traffic. Hawk tackles the boy. In Hawk's loving arms, Michael reveals himself to be a crybaby and a jerk. In no uncertain terms, he proclaims, "I hate you!"
Back at the military boarding school, Jason Cutler ( Robert Loggia) flanked by his goons chews out the Colonel. Cutler wants to know why the Colonel released custody of his son to Hawk. The Colonel informs him of the legality of the situation due to the mother's approval. Cutler storms off angrily and plots the recapture of his grandson.
It's Arm Wrasslin' Time, Hawk!
In Hawk's truck, Hawk tries to apologize to Michael. Michael continues to insult him -- this time over eating steak. They pull into a truck stop diner. Truckers at the truck stop happily greet "Linc." He is a little bit of a celebrity of the interstate. Michael insults everyone by calling the place a zoo. While ordering food, Michael continues to establish himself as less than Hawk's masculine ideal. The boy refuses steak as it causes heart disease. Instead he will have tuna salad on whole wheat with watercress. At this point, another trucker called "The Smasher" confronts Hawk. He wishes to take down the famous Arm Wrestler Lincoln Hawk. Hawk initially refuses as he wants to hide his secret passion from Michael. However, he accepts the challenge.
See You in Vegas.
In order to arm wrestle, Hawk must prepare himself. He puts on his wrasslin' hat and suspenders. He approaches the arm wrestling table among cheers and bets. His steely eyed gaze confronts his opponent. He activates his special power by flipping his cap backwards. The two titans grapple. Hawk appears to be losing, but this is a ruse as he gather's strength. Hawk then goes "Over the Top" and pins "The Smasher." Hawk wins a huge victory. He flips his cap/brain switch back to normal mode. Hawk is handed a sum of money as another large man challenges him. Hawk refuses saying they should wait for the big tournament in Las Vegas.
I'm Dying of Death Syndrome.
Michael runs to call his mother ( Susan Blakely). She is in a hospital when her son calls. Michael complains about his pairing with Hawk -- he's brash, sweaty, and uncivilized. His mother pleads with him to give Hawk a chance. Michael hands the phone to Hawk. Montage music starts. Hawk now travels the interstate with a new haul: Brut cologne. Michael turns off the montage music that plays on the truck's radio. Michael asks Hawk if he is a drug dealer. His grandfather apparently told him this erroneous information. Hawk now knows why his son has so much hatred.
Waking Up with Robert Loggia Over You.
Back in the hospital, Michael's mother reclines in bed. Cutler enters. He ominously attempts to control the situation even his daughter on her deathbed. Outside his daughter's hospital room, he orders his minions to find his grandson. The young cutler has apparently gone off the grid. Perhaps he is travelling via some sort wheeled cargo conveyance.
Night falls on Hawk and son. They stop at a truck stop to get some sleep. They pass out in the cabin. Michael starts warming to Hawk in that he feels superior to him. As they drift off to sleep, Hawk uses a weird come on by stating, "If you're neck gets sore, you can use my shoulder as a pillow." Michael denies the invitation. Hawk puts on his arm wrestling cap which is also his sleeping cap. They two bond silently in their dreams -- as creepy as that sounds. In the morning, Michael wakes up to find Hawk asleep on his shoulder.
For some odd reason, an exercise montage breaks out. They stretch at dawn. They do push-ups in the morning light. They spar, do lifts, and show off their "guns" by ripping the sleeves off their jackets. Hawk demonstrates an arm exerciser in his cabin. The two have successfully gotten to know each other. The miles pass as they learn about each other and start over. Michael cannot resist insulting Hawk by calling him juvenile. To teach Hawk a lesson about intelligence, he forces Michael to drive the truck. Michael nearly kills them with his driving. However, Michael overcomes his fear of driving as he overcomes his fear of his father. The two are truly friends now. In a brief cutaway, Cutler orders professional kidnappers to get his grandson back.
Look at Those Punks. Playing Video Games.
At another truck stop diner, Hawk forces Michael to arm wrestle some punks playing arcade games. The lead punk defeats Michael. Michael runs away crying. Hawk runs to console him. Hawk tells Michael that the confrontation was about "losing like a winner, with dignity." Michael is a spoiled brat. He needs to learn mental toughness. Losing an arm wrestling match apparently will accomplish this feat. Michael comes back for round two. Mimicking Hawk, Michael engages his steely-eyed stare. Hawk puts his cap on Michael and activates it by flipping it backwards. Michael wins twice.
Overjoyed by his victory, Michael calls his mother to tell her about all the fun times that he has been having with his father. He hands the phone over to Hawk. Hawk and his estranged wife discuss what will happen after she dies. She wants Hawk to raise Michael. With Hawk's attention diverted, the professional kidnappers hired by Cutler take Michael. Hawk chases after them in his truck He catches up with the kidnappers and rams their car. He takes Michael back and tells the kidnappers to deliver a message: "He's staying with me! You tell them that!" Hawk and Michael leave before the cops arrive.
Convenient Taxi Service.
Cutler argues with his lawyer about the custody of Michael. The lawyer informs Cutler that a judge will not award custody unless Hawk cannot support him. Cutler needs to prove that Hawk is a deadbeat.
Back in the truck, the bonding continues. Michael asks why Hawk left him and his mother a decade ago. Hawk explains that it was complicated. Michaels grandfather had a hand in forcing Hawk away for monetary reasons. The two reach Los Angeles. They visit Michael's mother in the hospital. She died earlier that evening during heart surgery. Michael runs away from Hawk. Michael blames Hawk for taking so long to get to Los Angeles. If he had gone with his grandfather, he would have seen her before she died. He takes a taxi to his grandfather. Hawk loses Michael.
Hawk Hates Lawn Ornaments.
Hawk does some introspection. He attends his wife's funeral. He stares into the sunset. He goes to meet his father-in-law. He is refused at the front gate. He wants to see his son: to comfort his son and himself. He acts like he is intimidated and starts to leave, but he backs up to gain speed. He rams the front gate and drives his truck onto the lawn of his father-in-laws estate. He knocks over statues, fountains, and cars, causing thousands of dollars in damage. He knocks the front door of the mansion off its hinges. Having broken into Michael's home, he pleads with Michael to join him. Cutler's goons and the police tackle Hawk as Michael cries. Hawk is hauled off to jail.
You'll Never Survive in Prison, Hawk.
In jail, Cutler's personal secretary visits Hawk. He has an offer for Hawk. Sign custody of Michael over to Cutler and leave the state for a large payment. Michael enters the room. Hawk apologizes for everything he has done and will do. He gives Michael some parting advice "do what's best for you." Hawk may or may not have accepted the payment as he leaves Los Angeles for Las Vegas.
I Read the Script. I'll Bet It All on Me.
In Las Vegas, Hawk prepares for the big arm wrestling tournament. He sells his truck for $7,000 but keeps his Hawk hood ornament. Hawk walks into the casino where the tournament is held and bets his truck sale money on himself with 20:1 odds. Hawk weighs in (5'11", 190 pounds). He then eyes the new truck that is part of the prize for winning the tournament.
Back in Los Angeles, Michael breaks into his mother's room and finds a purse filled with all the correspondence from Hawk. Michael reads each letter out loud. It turns out his father loved him all along. Michael steals a pickup truck from his grandfather's garage and drives to the airport. Cutler's goons chase after him.
At the tournament, the air is filled with excitement. An announcer explains the situation. He continually announces that the tournament is double elimination -- you need to lose twice to be knocked out of contention. The competition begins with winners and losers among both men and women. Hawk survives the first round. Sammy Hagar's version of "Winner Takes It All" blares.
TWA: Commuter Flights to Las Vegas Whenever Needed.
Michael somehow boards a plane. Apparently, it is one of those airlines that allows unaccompanied minors to fly for free (he enters the TWA terminal). He arrives in Las Vegas to see Hawk arm wrestle. First, he evades a group of goons and Cutler at the airport by riding the luggage conveyor belt.
At the World Championships of Arm Wrestling, the wrestlers give interviews. Hawk states he needs to win the truck. The competition appears fierce. Accordingly, Hawke immediately loses. Hawk has not been eliminated as it is a double elimination tournament -- as the announcer announces yet again. Cutler comes to meet Hawk. Cutler opens up to Hawk. He fears not having family. He accuses Hawk of deserting his family. Cutler offers Hawk a new truck to use as he drives as far away from Michael as possible. He also offers $500,000. Hawk is confused as he had already signed custody over to Cutler.
Win Or I Stop Loving You Again.
Hawk begins competing again. He wins his first match after his loss. Other people also win and lose. Hawk wins again and again and again to get to the final round against the World Champion -- "Bull" Hurley, the man who challenged Hawk in the truck stop diner earlier in the week. Before the final match, the contestants take a break. Michael shows up to encourage his father in a touching re-reunion.
The final match starts. The two contestants clasp hands. Cutler shows up to take Michael back, but Michael refuses. "Bull" Hurley punches Hawk in the nose before the match to psyche him out. The match goes back and forth. Hawk loses his strength and is pushed to the breaking point. Hawk digs deep and makes a comeback. The two arm wrestlers tire. Hawk uses every last ounce of strength and mortgages his son's love to beat Hurley. With a great deal of grunting, Hawk pins Hurley. Hawk is the new World Champion. He wins the trophy, the truck, and the money he bet with 20:1 odds on himself.
The Winner Truly Takes It All. If All Means an Orange Truck.
Hawk and Michael climb into their new truck. Technically, Hawk is kidnapping MIchael as Cutler is the legal guardian. Michael suggests they start their own trucking company. Son and Hawk -- which makes absolutely no sense unless someone named Son is going to be a partner. Hawk suggests Hawk and Son. They laugh and drive off to their next adventure.
Hawk Vs. Hawks
At numerous points in the film, Lincoln Hawk is either referred to as Hawk or Hawks. The sign on his truck door reads Hawk. For most of the scenes with Michael, people call him Hawk. However, at random points during the film, characters pluralize Hawk and begin calling Stallone's character Hawks. Robert Loggia falls on the Hawks side of the naming debate. He consistently calls the character Hawks. In one scene, he yells down a stairwell "Hawks!" Hawk even refers to himself as Hawks as he bets on himself.
There are possible reasons as to why there is such a disagreement on the main character's name. One reason is this low budget film had to fit into Sylvester Stallone's busy shooting schedule. Over the Top is wedged between two Stallone blockbusters: Cobra and Rambo III. Production on Over the Stop started and stopped production multiple times with shooting schedules hurried as a result. Still, drafts of scripts and the large staff required to make a film should have caught the errors.
Continuity, such as having characters consistently call each other the correct name, falls under the purview of the Script Supervisor. The script supervisor on Over the Top was Julie Pitkanen. Congratulations, Julie.
Lincoln Hawk Arm Wrestling Activation Sequence
Lincoln Hawk must engage a very specific series of actions before an arm wrestling match. This mostly winning method can be witnessed many times through the film. Although, Hawk does lose once after apparently engaging in this process, perhaps he skipped a step. The 5 steps are:
Fasten Suspenders -- These are the safety belts that fasten Hawk in for the ride.
Reverse Trucker's Cap -- This is the switch that activates arm wrestling awesome.
Engage Intense Stare -- Hawk tries to force his eyeballs from their sockets.
Psyche Self Up -- Arm Wrestling is primarily a mental game. A thinking man's sport.
Almost Lose Then Win -- Hawk almost never loses.
1. Fasten Safety Belts.
2. Flip Switch to Win.
3. Shove Eyes Down Opponent's Soul
4. Get Head In The Game.
5. Victory! (May Be Painful).
(Optional) Deactivate Awesome.
1990 CD Release
The songs of the film are custom made for the film with many popular 80s rockers/pop stars joining the production. Overall, the soundtrack sounds like a mix tape of 1980s sounds. The main theme of the movie comes from an arm wrestling term "Meet Me Halfway." The song, sung by Kenny Loggins, refers to both Hawk and his son making concessions. The arm wrestling term means grasping hands and dueling with an opponent. Another popular song used in the film is Sammy Hagar's version of "Winner Takes It All."
The official movie sound track was released in 1987 to coincide with the release of the movie and again in 1990 on Compact Disc. Here are the track listings of the CD:
"Winner Takes It All" - Sammy Hagar
"In This Country" -Robin Zander
"Take It Higher" - Larry Greene
"All I Need Is You" - Big Trouble
"Bad Nite" - Frank Stallone
"Meet Me Halfway" - Kenny Loggins
"Gypsy Soul" - Asia
"The Fight" - Giorgio Moroder
"Mind Over Matter" - Larry Greene
"I Will Be Strong" - Eddie Money
Parody or Not?
No Montage Music.
The absurd subject matter and the father-son relationship sequences cause many people to believe that Over the Top is a parody of other Stallone underdog sports hero movies, such as the Rocky series. There are certain scenes that wander too close to intentional cliche territory. For example, as Hawk and Michael begin their cross country trip, montage music begins. The camera pans around the truck with a series of fades showing distance traveled. Inside the truck, Michael turns off the radio. It turns out the montage music was only the radio. It was not a montage after all. After this revelation, Hawk turns on the radio again and tunes it to the montage music. An actual montage begins. The film also has heavy usage of disconnected looping. Characters not appearing on screen are dubbed in, making obvious comments as to what's happening on screen. "What's that kid doing there?" "They're going to arm wrestle!" "Go for it, Linc!"
Yes Montage Music.
However, Sylvester Stallone, as star and co-writer, approached the material with such sincerity that he elevated it above any intended parody. Stallone researched the trucker arm wrestling culture. He learned the terminology as evidenced by the film's title. He learned that many truckers keep exercise equipment in their trucks. He learned there actually was an arm wrestling organization (that still exists). Stallone took a self-aware movie and added realism.
I Will Make You Love Me!
The movie performed poorly at the box office. Critics panned the movie for its bizarre material and seemingly unconnected storylines. Critics could not see how a custody battle over a boy fit with a road trip movie bookended by an arm wrestling sports movie. Furthermore, one critic found that the scenes with Hawk trying to win over his son were more like a courtship or seduction. Hawk was trying to get his son to love him with tropes pulled from romantic comedies -- bad pickup lines, going to lunch, and generally flexing his muscles. He has pictures of Michael plastered all over his truck. Without sappy music, Hawk would come off as a stalker. This critic found this aspect extremely creepy.
Free Sunrise Backrubs.
Many other critics could not understand why Stallone made a family friendly film. The film was a complete about face from the ultra violent Cobra a year prior and the ultra violent Rambo III a year later.
Over the Top picked up fans over the years it was on home video. It received multiple releases on DVD throughout the 2000s and a Blu-Ray release with limited special features in 2010.