Saturday 8 May 2010

Breaker! Breaker! (1977)

Director: Don Hulette
Star: Chuck Norris

The Honorable Judge Joshua G Trimmings is a little happy with himself when this film begins because he's founding a new city and naming it after his mysteriously dead son, Howard. Unfortunately he's known as Tex so the Judge calls the place Texas City, California. The only way this could not be dumb is if he planned to have the good sense somewhere down the years to twin with California City, Texas, if there is such a thing or found it if there isn't. The art director on the film is named Thomas Thomas so maybe there was just something in the air. You can tell that trouble is brewing because Tex's widow and son don't seem to be happy about such an honour, so you'll hardly be surprised to find out that this is a corrupt little town in the back end of beyond run by a tin pot little dictator, just like Road House and The Dukes of Hazzard. George Murdock chews up the scenery as Judge Trimmings but he's fun to watch nonetheless.

Quite why anyone would choose to do his bidding I really don't know, because he's a royal pain in the ass to everyone including his own family, but just because he isn't bright doesn't mean he isn't brighter than everyone else. Everything from choppers to tricycles has a label slapped on it that reads 'A Trimmings Enterprise' and they run moonshine and wreck vehicles, just like The Cars That Ate Paris but without any of the style. In fact given the timeframe, the suggestion that everyone is apparently everyone else's cousin and a rather high percentage of them seem to be retarded, you could easily compare this to The Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes, but as the title suggests this isn't a horror movie, it's a trucker movie. We get some CB talk and some arm wrestling in a truckstop and we get a town full of morons who somehow think it's a good idea to take on Chuck Norris.

Fair enough, this was 1977 and so nobody had a chance to read all the jokes, but even so it's rather amazing that everyone seems to want to take him on. Perhaps I can forgive the Polish Angel, a huge bald guy in a muscle shirt, when he challenges him to an arm wrestling bout, but not when he and his friend in the denim jacket and pirate hat, complete with feather, decide to start a fight after they lose. One punch and one kick later Chuck is done and heading on home. But after he sends his kid brother Billy out on his first solo run and Billy gets suckered by the corrupt Texas City cops into their jurisdiction and good old Chuck has to come and sort it all out, nobody learns. Well, OK, one guy learns. When he chases round a building to find Chuck Norris standing amidst a pile of unconscious bodies, he does cry 'Oh shit!' and turns tail and runs as fast as he can. But that's one guy. Nobody else is that bright and they keep coming, one by one.

If it really matters, Norris is a trucker called JD, which is for John David or John Dawes, one or the other. He's John David Dawes, so perhaps he should be JDD, but this is Chuck Norris so he's comfortable making the rules not following them. Unfortunately he has so much confidence in his own invulnerability that he expects those around him to be just as tough. That can be the only reason that warrants his decision to send young Billy out on his first run. We first meet Billy falling off his dirt bike and when he takes his helmet off he shows us that he must be about sixteen. Of course he falls for every trick the cops from Texas City conjure up to sucker him into town, where they can put him front of Judge Trimmings on a host of trumped up charges. What's more, when the judge gives him a choice of 250 bucks or 250 days, he decides it's a good idea to steal a nightstick from the sergeant, take on both cops and leap through the window.

So with both Billy, or Evil Dirt Biker as he's known on the CB, and JD's truck missing and with only one possible place they could be, off heads JD in his Scooby van painted with huge American eagles to track them down. There's nothing like being obvious when you're being circumspect. No wonder the local yokels start shooting at him the moment he turns up. He has a rough idea in advance what the town has to offer because there are many stories and we conveniently get to see Jack, a fellow trucker, just before he sets off. Jack is paralysed, courtesy of 'an animal called Strode in Texas City'. That's Sgt Strode to everyone else but he's a complete waste of space. It's his sidekick Deputy Boles who's tough, tough enough to beat up a henpecked husband whose wife doesn't know how to shut up when she's finally getting out of the dumb situation she probably got them both into to begin with. Boles tries to look like Erik Estrada. He fails.
What JD finds in town can hardly surprise anyone, except in the details. He arrives just in time to find a mechanic called Wade to repair his radiator, which he promptly does. For a town that just wants to kill him, they sure do a good job of fixing up his escape vehicle. The judge doesn't want to talk to him because he's too busy getting drunk, quoting Romeo and Juliet and playing with hand puppets. Admittedly the barmaid has a doll fetish and is only half sane but that just makes it even worse. He finds a café but they charge more for out of towners so he just gets a coffee and a doughnut but manages to make the waitress laugh. She's Arlene Timmings, the judge's estranged daughter-in-law and obvious love interest for JD. The cops decide that they're going to call JD 'boy'. A lot. 'Hey, boy!' says Sgt Strode, when JD walks out of the café. 'We're going to kick your butt all the way back to highway 99, boy.' Guess how well that goes for him and the deputy.

And so it's on. Some capable demonstrations of how well Chuck Norris can perform roundhouse kicks don't seem to phase them and they just keep getting up for more. They start a fight with him in the courthouse but he escapes because he's Chuck Norris, jumps up through a hole in the roof out front and lets the entire room chase his nonexistent tail throughout town. I couldn't help but remember the line from Blazing Saddles: 'Baby, you are so talented! And they are so dumb!' Then when everyone has conveniently disappeared he drops back down in front of the judge, promptly walks away without doing anything and proceeds to get jumped, one at a time, from every nook and every cranny in town. It's like they're playing hide and seek but more akin to hide, seek and when you're about to find me I'll try to kick your ass. And fail. 'I'm gonna stick ya!' says the guy with a pitchfork before Chuck Norris kicks it away. And so on. And so on.

The level of dumbness in this film is quite astounding. Our hero takes on the town and when he's run out of yokels to roundhouse into oblivion, he gets back into his eagle van, which they've happily fixed for him, and heads out so we can have a chase scene. I don't think there's a single scene in which anything remotely surprising happens that was intended. The only time I was surprised was when the barmaid got freaky with her broken dolls and when the judge seemed to molest his grandson in front of his mother. This is a freaky judge, nowhere near as sinister as Ben Gazzara in Road House or as sleazy as Sorrell Booke as Boss Hogg but freakier than both put together. The rest of the town has its moments too, from Arney, Wade the mechanic's brother, who is both retarded and a stutterer but handles all the deliveries with his tricycle, to the redneck helicopter pilot who must have come back from 'Nam with a few missing marbles.

The finalé has JD take on Deputy Boles and his broken bottle of Wild Turkey in a corral. That means Chuck Norris on one side and some dude called Ron Cedillos on the other. No you haven't not heard of him because he's been fighting illegal underground bare knuckle bouts for the last thirty years, you haven't heard of him because he shouldn't be fighting Chuck Norris. He's about as appropriate an opponent as I would be and he does just about as well. This must surely be the weakest boss battle ever. I think he throws one punch and that only just connects. Norris is so phased by it that he even changes which side of his body he's been gutshot on just for the hell of it. Sure, Cedillos gets to call Chuck Norris a son of a bitch in slow motion but that's about it. I have to admit that I'd like to put that on my resumé and, be honest, so would you, but it's really not a heck of a lot to base an entire movie career on. No wonder this was his only credit.

And just in case you were wondering, yes, this is a trucker movie. Scriptwriter Terry Chambers merely forgot about that, apparently. Eventually it comes back to him that his movie is called Breaker! Breaker! and he really ought to have someone jump on a CB to call in the cavalry, who promptly show up and destroy everything without getting out of their eighteen wheelers. 'It sounds like thunder!' say the townsfolk as every trucker JD has ever met descends on the town to join in the mayhem. The effects of this thunder make the town rattle just like Perfection does in Tremors so I kept waiting for graboids to appear out of the floor and spit the rednecks back because they're too dumb to count as good monster food. Unfortunately they never arrived and we had to settle for not a heck of a lot instead. This movie would have been twice as good if we had caught sight of a single graboid. It would have been a better opponent for Chuck Norris too.


old pajamas said...


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Anonymous said...

Your review was more entertaining than the movie. That's not saying much. Terry Chambers

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I love this movie. But most people do not. Even Mystery Science Theater 3000, a great show, made fun of Breaker Breaker. Given the corniness and absurd storyline, there was greatness in it. But your review was very funny. The Great John L being an actual cast name probably means it didn't cost much to hire the actors.