Saturday, December 27, 2014

Over the Top ★★

    If arm-wrestling was actually a sporting event and held on stages that bear a resemblance to that of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire," then it would take a lot for me to be interested. Wrestling, and, if you included the only other public display in which half unclothed men hit each other--boxing--are in themselves an acquired taste. That's the issue with "Over the Top," (a phrase that also has a technical meaning in the art of slamming one man's arm down with your own) along with the fact that Sylvester Stallone, with numerous masterpieces on his résumé by this point in his career, gives us two reasons not to be involved with this film. They consist of:

    A bland script, which attempts to coax us into the theme that powered the likes of "Rocky," (being the struggle for human dignity) that fails miserably.

    An uninspired performance, which can best be summarized by the emotionless face of Stallone, as he reaches into the depths of his talents and conjures nothing but detachment.

    The rather rudimentary plot, which centers on our protagonist and his son, requires a sense of warmth and naturalness that Stallone cannot provide. Reaction shots obviously suffer from this lack of understanding, and emotional restraint seems to be furiously oppressive. (Most films do not exercise enough, while "Over the Top" does not even strive to produce a look of empathy or happiness on Stallone's face.) If there is even a hint of internal conflict that our character is dealing with, it never becomes believable.

    Stallone is Lincoln Hawk (an example of a very intriguing use of name typing), a man who drives big rigs and participates in underground arm-wrestling circuits at local trucker stops. Sounds like fun, right? Hawk's young son, Michael, who has just finished juvenile military school, is thrown into his company, as his mother (and Hawk's ex-wife) falls ill.

    This sets up for several instances of compassion that are lost in translation, and a championship arm-wrestling match, that not only serves as the climax, but as the sole happening that will allow Hawk to regain his dignity, and earn admiration from his son. They attempt to bond through actions, such as: Hawk teaching his son to drive an eighteen wheeler, and morning workouts that require the assistance of the front of the automobile; all of which are accompanied by a soundtrack that captures the soul of the 1980s music industry.

    The problem with this chief character is three-fold. Firstly, there is no emotional involvement, which never gives the audience a reason to care. Secondly, a poor performance only adds to the sentimental void. Lastly, and most importantly, the story makes little sense. Hawk never had a reason to leave his family in the first place, and when posed with this particular question, we don't receive any valid explanation, just a few low-toned mumblings, and broad assertions.  

    Although essentially a plot driven film at its core, there were a few images that remained with me after the viewing. Long range shots, featuring the backdrop of the southwestern United States, and the slow motion director's interpretative points of view, which captures three hundred pound men in moments of physical strain, while doused in sweat. (The ladder being quite unpleasant, and the former being the only aesthetically pleasing images in the picture.)

    There is an old adage that claims: One cannot just involve an audience with a sunset or any other image of attractiveness, but only people. For, it is the forefront human quality of the medium, and one that allows the spectator to relate to a figure on-screen. However, in this specific circumstance, it would seem this conviction is flawed. I'll take a picturesque landscape over an inexpressive product any day.  

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