MGM Studios DVD presents
Breaker! Breaker! (1977)
"I'll have a donut."- J.D. Dawes (Chuck Norris)
Stars: Chuck Norris, George Murdock
Other Stars: Terry O'Conner
Director: Don Hulette
MPAA Rating: PG for language and kung-fu violence
Run Time: 01h:24m:38s
Release Date: 2000-12-19
DVD ReviewAh, finally, a classic has arrived on DVD. One of the greatest films of the '70s, this movie featured a tour de force performance from its male lead, a gripping plot, and a talented, celebrated director. The film? Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece The Conversation. Oh yeah, and some Chuck Norris B-Movie called Breaker! Breaker! just came out too.
Chuck Norris IS J.D. Dawes, renegade trucker, arm wrestler, spiritual guru, and lover (ew). When his subtle, unspoken homoerotic relationship with his younger brother Billy is shattered by Billy's disappearance during a trucking run, J.D. is determined to make those responsible pay for their crimes (but not before he completes a homoerotic arm wrestling match/fight with several beefy, well greased truckers—real American men doing real, American work). Following Billy's trail, J.D. comes to Texas City, California, aptly named, since all the townspeople speak like illiterate Southerners (ha ha, but I kid our Southern brothers, lest they rise again). It seems Billy had run across the town secret scandal (so secret that every citizen seems to be in on it). Apparently, the corrupt town cops pull over random motorists and ticket them. Then the corrupt tow truck tows them away to the corrupt junkyard, where the car is scrapped and sold (no doubt to corrupt used car dealerships). The passengers are taken to the corrupt courthouse where they are sworn in by corrupt bailiffs and sentenced by a drunken judge (bet you thought I was going to say he was corrupt!). It's up to J.D. to locate his brother, liberate the town, bed the local harlot, and do spinkicks in slow motion. Proponents of vigilante justice, I salute you!
Chuck Norris is officially a natural treasure. He represents the American dream, where someone with very little talent can push himself through the ranks of the more qualified to become an international star. Sure, he can flip around and do martial arts. So can the Power Rangers, or my roommate, for that matter. No, as far as I can tell, it is Chuck's winning personality that has given him the edge. Not since Al Gore's concession speech (last week) have I seen such a convincing, heartfelt performance from a walking block of wood.
Don't think I'm selling the supporting cast short, however, even if I can't technically remember all their names (at least, none of those that weren't featured on the back of the box). There's Billy, of course, brought to life by Michael Augenstein in a role that towers over - well, no one, but he showed up so I suppose he gets credit. Witness his transformation from a lithe, feminine man-child of a trucker into a cowering kidnap victim. No Tom Hanks immersion techniques needed here, no sir. Just some red paint and a dirty shirt and, well, I won't ruin it for you, but don't miss the heartfelt scenes between Billy and J.D. Not since The X-Files: Fight the Future have a seen such sexual tension between two characters. Several of my fellow viewers, inebriated as they were, were so caught up in the story that chants of "Oh, come on! Just kiss him!" were not uncommon. Even better is the town judge/mayor/drunk, who so affected me that I cannot remember his name. George Murdock does his darndest to come off as a power hungry dictator, determined to command his elite forced of dirty, moronic hick soldiers to victory against the one-man army that is Chuck Norris. A stunning representation of the fact that with absolute power comes absolute body fat percentage.
Ok, ok, I am getting tired of these false platitudes. I can only engage my sense of humor to a point. If the movie becomes so openly hostile towards the audience that even I can't laugh at it, it MUST be bad. Breaker! Breaker! features uniformly terrible acting, unappealing characters, idiotic dialogue, boring "action," and a ludicrous ending. When Homer Simpson said that the convoy was a beautiful sight, he wasn't thinking of this film.
Now I know what you are thinking. Hey, why be critical of the plot, story, and acting? This is a Chuck Norris film, all we want is some chop-socky action! Well, you've just illustrated why I'm the reviewer and you are not (ha ha!). What action is present is poorly shot and extremely fake-looking. Oh, and did I mention most of it is slow motion? Yes, nothing is more majestic that the sight of a big, dirty trucker floating through the air at five frames a second, tapped in the balletic display of reacting to a gut punch. I'd say at least ten minutes of the film's running time could be cut by showing fights at normal speed (heck, the entire final five-minute battle is slow-mo!).
Speaking of running time - midway through the film, all that kept me going was the knowledge that, according to the back of the box, I only had to endure a scant 65 minutes. Heck, Hollow Man was longer, and I made it through that. Imagine my surprise when, at the 65 minute mark, the film did not end. I checked the disc time, and lo and behold, whoever made the DVD packaging mislabeled the running time by 20 minutes! It was like getting an early Christmas present. An unexpected, horrible Christmas present.
Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: D-
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes||no|
Image Transfer Review: No, you didn't read that wrong. Breaker! Breaker! IS anamorphically enhanced. Yes, we have Chuck Norris doing high kicks is slow motion in full, digital resolution, but the best-picture winner Annie Hall gets a rehashed LD transfer. Finally! A studio with its priorities in the right place.
That said, this transfer is a perfect example of the old adage, "anamorphic doesn't mean a good transfer." Well, soon to be an old adage. Anyway, this transfer has a lot of problems. Black level isn't all that great, with a lot of darker scenes looking grayish and muddy. Colors are very washed out throughout. Fine detail is lacking, and many complex surfaces have a pixelated look. The print quality is very poor as well. There are scratches throughout and a lot of visible film grain. Watchable, but certainly not impressive.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio track is serviceable, but not much else. Dialogue is usually clear, but becomes hard to hear in some of the "action" scenes. Sound effects tend to sound a bit flat or harsh. Don't worry though, the dueling banjos score is well preserved. Just tell me where I can buy the album!
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, French with remote access
Extras Review: Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Zero. Nothing. Not a single extra. Thank God.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsIf you must get your fix of Chuck Norris, then please, watch Walker, Texas Ranger and not Breaker! Breaker!. Your brain cells will thank you (or at least your family will).
Joel Cunningham 2000-12-14