Breaker! Breaker! (1977): Breakerdown by RANTBO
Chuck Norris drives trucks, kicks a town’s ass and molds himself a future persona as an action hero.
[THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THEIR BADASSITUDE]
Chuck Norris is John David ‘J.D.’ Dawes
Boles: The guy’s a bad dude. He’s punched out half the town…
Judge Trimmings: He was unarmed!
J.D. is a special character in the realm of Bad-Ass Cinema, as not only was he Chuck Norris’ first lead role but also his first turn as the protagonist. Sporting a bitchin’ helmet of blonde 70s lower-class hero hair, a sweat-stained suit of denim armor and a clean shaven face, J.D. is quite the rustic sight to behold—but he’s not quite Chuck yet. That is to say, that even though he is played by Chuck Norris, and clearly knows how to kick people in and about the face, the features that have become so endearing and iconic to his persona over the years are not present. Not that I’d hold this against the character, but without the bare chest and hairy chin; his promising, but clunky fight choreography is hardly boner inducing. That said, this man is still a shit-kicking tornado of balls and mutton-chops.
Introduced by pulling up to a roadside diner in his 18 wheeler, it takes all but a three minutes before John Dawes is arm wresting a large gay man for bragging rights. J.D. wins the match, of course, and in doing so establish himself a white trash hero before even throwing a boot-covered kick—which he does a minute later, as the machismo unleashed from his gun-show spurs the other men in the room to fight one another. A scene which successfully makes for a mildly impressive precursor for when J.D. lets loose the legs to send an entire town of rednecks back into their shallow gene-pools. Plus, he literally kicks his way through obstacles; such as fences, walls and barricades combined of the former. And did I mention he drives around in a suped-up industrial van with a giant eagle painted on it?
Texas City, California
“You can’t run a box-lunch through that town without giving everybody a bite. They chew you up, turn you ’round, spit chew out.“
Billy Dawes: This isn’t a town, it’s a racket!
Lead by Judge Joshua Trimmings (George Murdock) and enforced by Sergeant Strodes (Don Gentry) and fellow corrupt cop goon, Deputy Boles (Ron Cedillos), the community of Texas City are about as disturbed and dangerous as can be without drawing state or federal attention. Together through intimidation, extortion, torture, theft, kidnapping, moon-shining, implied previous and clear attempted murder; this band of gypos are quite an organized force to be reckoned with. Not to mention they have a higher-priced diner menu for out-of-towners. Those bastards…
While there is nothing inherently bad-ass about the willful ignorance it takes to allow, or worse participate, in such deeds for such immoral and evil leaders, (or just as bad, not, but still turning a blind eye), if the residents of this town were anymore creepy, this film would need to be filed in the horror section. Think The Texas CITY Chain Saw Massacre. Few things scare me outside of cancer and ass-rape, but rednecks with power are on the top of that list. And the fact that Dawes’s opposition is an entire town comprised completely of easily lead, dangerously stupid, authoritative, bible-thumping hillbillies puts this film in league with The Wicker Man for on my ‘Scariest Movie Of All Time List’. It’s a good thing that Chuck Norris knows no fear, because I’m terrified.
[THE SEX AND VIOLENCE]
DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO:
For a movie featuring Chuck Norris as a trucker in rural California, I find it surprising to have found hardly any at all. I genuinely expected a plethora of undertones and outright homoerotic grab-assing, but there’s sadly not much to report. My only guess as to why this film couldn’t deliver is that it was made in the late seventies and the filmmakers were simply unable to fully realize the possibilities of the subject matter with Jimmy C. as president. I mean, the filmmakers had Chuck ‘The Bear’ Norris and the only time they bothered to show him shirtless was after he had sex with a woman. What where they thinking!? It’s no wonder nobody remembers this movie.
EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY:
Chuck finds the only single woman in Texas City, a waitress named Arlene, and after knowing her for one day and zero dates, he fucks her in the back of his van.
I’d normally write a blurb discussing her whorish ways and whatnot, but under the circumstances, I can’t bring myself to do so. After seeing the brand of dick that her town had to offer and then throwing Chuck’s chiseled and muscular bod into the fray, I can’t blame the poor girl for hiking up her chilly-stained smock and putting on a wink and drip show to grab his attention. It’s probably the only chance she had at escaping that shit-kicker hellhole and I don’t blame her for taking it—even if it did make for a ridiculously out-of-place “falling-in-love” montage and solidified her as a slutty hoe.
MURDER BY NUMBERS: [ 02 ]
Chuck kills a guy with a kick!—it was unintentional and the guy may or may not have landed on something sharp, but still! The only other death is when one of the townie retards accidentally shoots his clinically-retarded (note the distinction) brother in the stomach. Oh, rednecks…
MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING AND/OR DEATH:
J.D. vs. Deputy Boles
Best I can figure, Dawes stops feeling pain the moment his 5’o-clock shadow breaks through the threshold of his skin (a feature Norris would obviously go on to employ to full extent a couple years later), because by this point in the film he had already been beaten, shot in the solar plexus and beaten a second time, yet he still manages to muster enough machismo to fight Deputy Boles in the middle of a fenced-in horse corral. Stallion included (not to worry though, J.D. frightens it off with a cold-stare, as to not involve the poor creature in his fury).
I’d question calling what proceeds as a fight, as often in one of those there are at least two people trading blows. Not the case here. This is what’s referred to as an “ass-kicking”. Using Sergio Leoine-style extreme face close-ups and anything-but-subtle “unbridled wild stallion” imagery (including several hilarious freeze frames), this final showdown succeeds in making the past hour and change worth spending.
Deputy Drunkard takes his many, many kicks to the head gallantly, but his alcohol induced numbness isn’t enough to stop Dawes from rendering him infertile. J.D. is not without mercy though, and leaves the poor bastard the use of his legs—or at least would have if Boles hadn’t called him a sonovabitch in super slow-motion as his gravedigger was pimping away. Dawes retorts with a flying jump kick originating out of Alabama, with a final destination of Wild Turkey Piss Puddle Midsection, after a brief layover at Caved-In Chest, California. This ends the conversation, and the movie.
[THE BEST OF THE REST]
Fleet of 18 Wheelers vs. Texas City
J.D. is in “trouble” and his waitress/girlfriend calls in the Calvary, which happens to be a group of truckers. The large-bellied, flannel wearing, sweat-stain patrol barrels ass into town and without so much as a quick check to make sure there are no innocents (not that there were) or children within; proceed to ram, drive-through and demolish the entire town. Buildings collapse, shit explodes, fires break out and the white trash blows away in the wind. And during this siege of white on maggot-white hate, one of the truckers lets loose this gem from his tobacco stained lips…
Random Trucker: I haven’t had this much fun since I broke my shoulder!
I think I may be a little too middle-class to fully understand that line, but it makes me laugh, none-the-less.
Judge Trimmings: [after sicking the townies on Dawes] Where force is necessary, there it shall be applied boldly, decisively and completely.
Dawes: You’re right about that, Judge! [NORRIS ATTACKS!]
Texas City, California. A place so lacking in fresh braincells that the best name they could think of for their redneck gypsy land squat, was to label it after the biggest, fattest, most backward-thinking state in the union. The film begins with the yokels celebrating having just received a town charter for their cluster of shanties and expressing their hardships in achieving said goal. So, what the fuck does this have to do with Chuck Norris’s J.D. Dawes? Well, in order to keep their newly found town alive, these backwoods buttfuckers run an extortion racket on the people unfortunate enough to drive near the area, including falsely accusing and wrongfully arresting (read: beating, kidnapping and imprisoning) J.D.’s younger truck drivin’ brother, Billy (Michael Augenstein). J.D. retaliates accordingly.
Made back when Norris still had blonde hair, no beard and had just begun to figure out that 3 inch-long shoulder hair was un-sexy, Breaker! Breaker!, in a sense, became the precursor-flag that began his solo-career strut to bad-assville (the green-flag being his sophomore effort, Good Guys Wear Black). Regardless of being a waitress defined “…well refined, educated man…”, Dawes is about as one-dimensional as you can get with what would become Chuck’s token: awe-shucks tough-guy.
Chuck love brother! Chuck want brother back! CHUCK SMASH! Believe in Jesus.
And Norris never looked back—unless preceded by a roundhouse.
Despite having practically zero charisma or talent for emoting outside of the most basic expressions of anger and contentment, Chuck’s J.D. manages to keep the film hovering just above a chocolate-shotgunned toilet with his goofy, but none-the-less entertaining, acts of overly male heroism: brawlin’, drivin’ and wrasslin’. And while the same could be said for most his films; the setting, tone and plot of Breaker! Breaker! fought me every second of the way.
While the title/poster hides nothing, the film annoyed and disgusted me with the country-pukes it lobbied against, but also supported as everyone involved, good or bad, were guilty of willfully belonging to the same microcosm of rural American life. I’d say the country western music, Deliverance-style string twangs, fundamentalist persona cast and all-around blue-collar atmosphere was cliche and exaggerated, but in personally having grown up in a small mountain town, I’m well aware that truck stop diners do in-fact employ middle-aged hags named Pearl and Arlene. My point being, Breaker! Breaker! struck (literally) a little too close to home for me to find it anything but frightening and more than a little tragic.
A completely personal issue, that I wouldn’t hold against the film, but a factor that made the movie less enjoyable just the same.
Which is not to say the film doesn’t contain an intrinsic novelty value of entertainment. For instance, in one rare, blink-and-you-miss-it scene, the film shows J.D. at his home teaching an eastern philosophy class to a bunch of locals on utilizing ones “third eye” to bring balance and peace to their corn-fed souls. The scene works not only as an explanation of J.D.’s marital arts prowess (in that he’s clearly studied Asian culture), but also sets up his ‘collecting-of-badass-energy’ moment before the final fight.
Chuck’s later films would of course delve into the whole east-meets-west amalgamation of badassitude (which then went on to be the basis for Steven Seagal’s entire career), but I wish the filmmakers would have spent a little more time on it here, if for nothing else than to better combat the proletariat stereotypes that so chapped my ass. Like the ‘Porcelain Doll’ decorated bar that the Judge gets drunk and flirts at… What the fuck was that all about? That was just scary…
So far as the action goes, I mentioned before about it appearing ‘clunky’, and my feeling being that this is the perfect adjective for not just the martial arts, but the chase sequences as well. It’s all in a campy B-Movie fun kinda way, but still, nothing really pumped my nuts. In arguably the best chase, J.D. heads out of Texas City in the Patriot-Mobile to lose the local smokies amongst the sand dunes of the surrounding area, which hearkened to some Reynold’s-style bandit hijinks that really helped lighten the otherwise dark and twisted story. But other than that and the final fight in the corral, there wasn’t that much going on.
In closing, Breaker! Breaker! is neither awesomely good, nor awesomely bad. As it stands, the flick is sorta fun to watch for the novelty of seeing vintage Norris, but it’s not nearly unintentionally funny nor intentionally badass enough for me to bother wasting brain-space remembering much about it even after several viewings. Yes, that’s right, I’ve seen this multiple times. At least, I’m pretty sure I have… See? And being a movie about Chuck Norris driving trucks and karate fighting human garbage, it really needed to pick a side of the fence and just go all out. So, my overall reaction can be summed up with: meh. Watch if you are a budding Chuck completest, but avoid if you think your taste in trashy movies is as refined as mine.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
“If it’s from Shelly, it’s good for your belly!” and don’t insult Chuck’s mother. Directly or by proxy. As he’ll stomp a motherfuckin’ mudhole in your chest.
[THE AOBG ACTION CHECKLIST]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor” [Norris]
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse/Castle
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[ ] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
[TOTAL: 16 outta 25]
Breaker! Breaker! (1977) © Worldwide Distribution Corp. and MGM/UA Home Entertainment / Review © AllOuttaBubbleGum.com and Ty ‘RANTBO’ Hanson