Breaker! Breaker! (1977) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG for violence, language and some sexuality (would be PG-13 today)
Running Time: 86 min.
Cast: Chuck Norris, George Murdock, Terry O'Conner, Don Gentry, John Di Fusco, Ron Cedillos, Michael Augenstein, Dan Vandegrift, Paul Kawecki, Larry Feder
Director: Don Hulette
Screenplay: Terry Chambers
Breaker! Breaker! Probably delivers exactly what you'd expect from a 1970s trucker movie starring Chuck Norris (The Delta Force, Missing in Action). There's going to be lots of kicking, punching, and run-ins with the law, and most likely Norris is going to be misunderstood, and have to take the law into his own hands to exact a form of justice on those who aren't doing right in his eyes. Needless to say, the chance of this derivative kind of movie ever being good would rival state lottery odds. Still, you'd be hard-pressed to find another trucker movie that executes its fundamentals as poorly as director Don Hulette (director of such cinematic gems as They Saved Hitler's Brain and Death Machines) manages to do here. In the trash cinema barrel, this one's scraping so low to the bottom that all we get are wood chips.
Norris stars as trucker J.D. Dawes, fearless fighter and man of his word, and loyal older brother to Billy, the dirt bike whiz. J.D. teaches Billy the ropes of truck driving, giving the boy some autonomy on his latest run, although Billy has no idea what he is getting himself into when some renegade cops use the CB radio to steer him in the wrong direction, into the town of Texas City, California. The town is run by crooked Judge Trimmings (Murdock, Thomasine and Bushrod), who uses his power to try and convict people into giving over cash for their supposed misdeeds, or spend time in the clink. Billy knows a rat when he smells one, refuses to pay the fine, and makes for a hasty escape, but the long arm of Trimmings stops him in his tracks. Having heard no sign of this young brother, J.D. decides to do a little searching, and it doesn't take him long to sniff out just what's going on when he enters Texas City. With the cops and most of the townspeople all engaged in the crime wave, it seems it's up to J.D. alone to take down the crooked cops and fascist judge with nothing but his feet and fists to persuade them to do his bidding.
The first issue I have with Breaker! Breaker! (among a great many) comes from the assertion that it only has an 86 minute running length. The time on my watch and every other clock in the house may have only changed 86 minutes, but I swear there must have been some trickery involved in the time-space continuum, because the amount of tedium that set in could only come from at least a 3 hour movie.
Next come the unsavory characters, who look like they all could have walked out of a spoof on small-town rednecks. There's the grease monkey, the beer swiller, the cowpoke, and the village idiot, all of them dimwits that are easily dispatched by the comparatively sophisticated JD. I suppose any town that would willingly follow the drunken oaf named Trimmings into major acts of larceny would have to be ill-bred loons, but as depicted here, these people couldn't be lampooned any more cruelly without showing them all with their hands on the hips of wide-eyed, shivering sheep. With hayseeds this dumb, they really have to make the village idiot, here a mentally-challenged stuttering man, so clueless that it's a wonder how he might be able to discern toilet paper from the electric sander.
I'm a bit curious as to the make up of the town as well, since there appears to be about one woman for every twenty men. Perhaps in Smurf Village this sort of ratio is kosher, but when there are only four chicks in town and the hottest of them seems to be readily available for the first stranger that comes along (in this case, JD), perhaps I may have been wrong in assuming the men of the town didn't engage in a little sheep loving. Hmmm, there is only one kid in town, come to think of it...
Then there is the apparently miniscule budget the producers went into this film with, which also is responsible for some truly cheesy moments. While other trucker films gleefully pile on car after car in a display of wanton twisted metal carnage, Breaker! Breaker! is curiously devoid of almost anything resembling a head-on collision. Car chases are reduced to Chuck Norris doing donuts in his slickly painted van in order to kick up enough dust that the cops are absolutely stymied. The town itself is an obvious set, looking like one of those ghost towns you see in old westerns where a false front is held up by pieces of plywood.
Finally, in one of the weirdest scenes in Chuck Norris history, a showdown is contrived between "sweet feet" JD and one of the local sheriffs that has nothing better to do than wait around at the horse corral and swig booze until he gets a mandatory ass-whooping. He seems quite content in his role in life as a human punching bag, as he offers even less resistance than a sparring coach as Norris gets to do about a half-dozen flying kicks into the guys sternum before he finally passes out from exhaustion. The real oddity is why every punch and kick delivered happens to be punctuated with an obligatory shot of the horse in the corral, as if there were some deep significance to the horse, the corral, the sheriff, or Norris' ultra-tight and ultra-loud t-shirt.
Breaker! Breaker! easily ranks among the worst of lists that hardly have anything to brag about to begin with. It sucks as a Chuck Norris film, it sucks as a trucker film, it sucks as a car chase film, and it just plain sucks as an z-grade exploitation film. Quite frankly, I'm embarrassed to even have a review of it on here, because it only exposes to the world just how devoid my life is of substance that I couldn't find something better to do with 86 minutes of my life. You can thank me now if I've saved you the same shame. I'd rather take a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the crotch (with spurs on!) than sit through this rancid stinker again.
©2005 Vince Leo