Monday, July 14, 2014

Breaker! Breaker! - 1977

"Breaker!  Breaker!" - 1977
Dir. by Don Hulette - 1 hr. 26 min.


by Clayton Hollifield

I don't even know where to begin with "Breaker! Breaker!"  Depending on your viewpoint, it's either one of the greatest awful movies ever made or damned near unwatchable.  Here's what's indisputable: this film is part of the mid-'70s glut of trucker/CB radio movies, it's painfully low-budget, and if Chuck Norris wasn't in it, I doubt anyone would give it a second glance.  It's not that there aren't awesome and hilarious things present apart from Mr. Norris, but having at least one actor that people have heard of makes it a lot more likely that someone will give a movie like this a chance.  Which is pretty much why I watched it.

"Zen Trucker" (as per the description of the film when you hit the "info" button) J.D. Dawes (Chuck Norris) gets off the road, and reconnects with his family, which includes his little brother, Billy (Michael Augenstein), who is about to head out on his very first haul.  J.D. takes it easy, while his brother works, alternately meditating and winning barroom arm-wrestling challenges against Polish nightmares in mesh tank tops.  But Billy falls victim to a small-town scheme on the road in Texas City, California, the sort of place where the judge just looks at you and tells you that you're guilty for whatever he feels like charging you with.  When Billy falls out of touch, J.D. is forced into action to track down the whereabouts of his little brother.  And there's a lot of roundhouse kicks, too.

There's one moment in this film that means that I had to give it a little credit - there's a scene where one cop mentions that he'll be in as soon as his partner finishes taking a ten one-hundred, which I knew what that meant because of "Smokey and the Bandit."  Then, the cop comes out from behind the bushes, pulling up his pants and tucking his shirt in, which clearly meant he was taking a ten TWO-hundred (thank you, Sally Field).  And there are a million things in "Breaker! Breaker!" that are pretty rad, independently of one another.  There's J.D.'s custom van:

Pic borrowed from Internet Movie Car Database

There's the outfits of the bad guys in the arm-wrestling contest, including one man in a vest and no shirt, but wearing a buccaneer's hat (he's the left-most figure in the picture).

Pic borrowed from Forgotten Flix

C'mon, man!  You're not going to beat Chuck Norris in an arm-wrestling contest!  He fought Bruce Lee in the Colosseum!  There's Chuck Norris kicking everything and everyone in sight (although there's a lot of light in some of those kicks).  The entire movie felt like it was cobbled together from elements found only in advertisements from 1970s Marvel Comics, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.  Does it hang together?  Well, not really, but who can pretend to care even a little when Chuck rolls in, driving that sweet-ass van?

And unlike a lot of movies from this era that are weird, "Breaker! Breaker!" doesn't feel drug-influenced.  It's just plain weird.  Texas City's justice, Judge Joshua Trimmings (George Murdock) is a drunk who plays with hand-puppets with the barmaid, and comes off like a poor-man's Ernest Borgnine.  There's the mentally-challenged guy who rides around the town on his adult-sized tricyle, wearing a sporty neckerchief.  J.D.'s best friend seems to be constantly making faces that might indicate he's mid-stroke (interpret that how you will, his faces could be medically-induced, or they could be from his vinegar strokes).  And my personal favorite part of the movie involves the Judge questioning the young boy of the woman who's befriended J.D., Arlene (Terry O'Connor), basically haranguing the boy about his mom getting banged by Chuck Norris in front of like a dozen people, over and over again, like the boy should be upset about that.  Chuck Norris was a walking Wranglers ad here, you show me any adult woman that could resist that, him, and his sweet-ass van, and I'll show you someone whose heart pumps not human blood, but instead a fluid grim determination to self-sabotage every aspect of her life, including the pursuit of pleasure.

The final showdown almost literally takes place in an octagon; J.D. faces off against Mexican Luke Wilson, Deputy Boles (Ron Cedillos), while a horse inexplicably freaks out in the background.  You know how this is got to end, even though J.D. has to meditate away having been shot in the stomach before the fight.  There's some good kicks, but you know this kind of movie isn't going to have the same kind of action scenes that you'd get now in an action movie.  Half of the film is best summed up as Chuck Norris kicking hillbillies in the face in a tourist replica western town, not that there's really anything wrong with that.  And when it comes time for the anonymous, faceless army of truckers to come save J.D.'s bacon, vigilante justice is never going to feel so right.

So like I was saying, I don't even really know what to tell you about "Breaker! Breaker!"  This isn't, by any reasonable set of standards, a decent movie.  Even ironically, I think it's entirely possible that you could be bored by this.  No, I think that you're going to have to have an honest, deep-seated appreciation for custom vans, Chuck Norris kicking things (and none of this internet-style, ironic Norris appreciation, I mean the real deal), CB radios and truckers, dirtbikes, and Wranglers to enjoy "Breaker! Breaker!"  There's probably a better movie with these elements, but if you don't like all that to begin with, you'll be lost here.  I had a ball, and I have no way to defend that.  I can't recommend this movie at all, but I still thought it was awesome.

1 / 5 - TV (HD)

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