Over the Top (aka "Meet Me Half Way" (1987))
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, David Mendenhall, and Robert Loggia
Director: Menehen Golan
Rating: Three of Ten Stars
Lincoln Hawk (Stallone), a long haul trucker and semi-pro competitive arm wrestler struggles to reconnect with his son (Mendenhall) after the death of his wife.
Yes... I wrote "semi-pro competitive arm wrestler." There are parts of this movie that play like "Balls of Fury", with its extreme ping-pong matches, yet it's all meant to be taken seriously. And apparently there are enough folks out there who take arm wrestling seriously enough that there are leagues and championships, just like we see in this movie. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but this website is proof that truth is often nearly as strange as fiction.
But why anyone would think that a movie centered on a semi-pro arm wrestler could be profitable with a budget of $25 million is a complete mystery. Perhaps they thought anything vaguely sports related starring Sylvester Stallone would be an instant hit, what with the first three "Rocky" movies having been huge successeses. They were of course wrong, and "Over the Top" lost some $9 million during its theatrical run.
I don't know if this movie bombing is a good thing or a tragedy, because if it had turned a quick profit, I'm sure we would have been treated to Stallone as a semi-pro caber tosser in "Death Logs" and as a semi-pro curling player, squaring off against a team of villains led by Dolph Lundgren in "Clean Sweep."
I do wish I had remembered this movie existed while working on my forthcoming book, 150 Movies You Should (Die Before You) See. It would have been ideal for the chapter titled "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time." But, featuring it for The Expendables Week is a good second best.
While I remain baffled any executive at Cannon Group, Warner Bros. or Golan-Globus would have thought an idea this lame could earn back a $25 million investment, I can see why this film might have appealed to Sylvester Stallone.
Stallone is an actor, who enjoys acting, and the character he portrays here is different than any other he had played at this time (or since, as far as I know). Lincoln Hawk comes across like a gentle, soft-spoken man for whom confrontation is something he tries to avoid until back into a corner, and for whom violence is usually not even an option to be considered. There is a lot about the Lincoln Hawk character that feels very real, and I think Stallone does a good job at portraying him. I also think this character looked better on paper, because he's the only thing that feels even close to real in this film, as the goofy arm wrestling "action" is laughable, and Hawk's Snidely Whiplash-like millionaire father-in-law (played by Robert Loggia) is so over the top in every way that one might think the title refers to him instead of an arm wrestling move. Hawk's relationship with his son also feels artificial, both because of some weak writing... and because child actor David Mendenhall is an average child actor. And that means that you can tell he is ACTING whenever he is in a scene.
Aside from fans of Sylvester Stallone being able to enjoy him doing something a little different, there really isn't anything particularly exceptional about "Over the Top". All the technical aspects of the film are executed with the level of competence you'd expect for a movie someone spent $25 million on, but there is no making up for the fact that the film's main hook is goofy in the extreme (even if there is a real-world counterpart to it).