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  Breaker! Breaker! Action With All The Trimmings
Year: 1977
Director: Don Hulette
Stars: Chuck Norris, George Murdock, Terry O'Connor, Don Gentry, John Di Fusco, Ron Cedillos, Michael Augenstein, Dan Vandegrift, Douglas Stevenson, Paul Kawecki, Larry Feder, Jack Nance, David Bezar, Miranda Garrison, Amelia Laurenson, Ray Saniger, Dee Cooper
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: J.D. Dawes (Chuck Norris) is a trucker who has returned home to visit his brother Billy (Michael Augenstein), an aspiring dirt bike rider, although when J.D. goes to the track to check out his latest race, he sees him fall off his machine and have a tantrum. Billy's anger soon evaporates on seeing his older sibling, however, and they greet each other warmly, then start rolling around on the ground together. The younger Dawes also wants to be a trucker, and has just received his first job, so takes out J.D.'s cab towing a trailer full of T.V. dinners to its destination - but he will never arrive...

This was the first starring role that walking punchline Chuck Norris ever had, after a run of playing bad guys to show off his championship martial arts prowess. Luckily for him it was not widely seen or it might have been his last, although the reputation for being one of the worst films ever made it had for a while was not entirely deserved. It took its cue from the C.B. radio craze that was sweeping the world, and America especially, during the seventies - hey, it was the old internet - by naming itself after a C.B. catchphrase, and featuring a bunch of trucks, not to mention actual enthusiasts for the fad on the soundtrack who are heard but mysteriously never seen. But for most of the plot it owes more to something else.

That something else being the old western movies which this could easily have been if you swapped the vehicles for horses. Westerns were going out of fashion by this time, but men still wanted their fix of goodies versus baddies action, and quite often the small independent production companies came up with the goods, gracing the drive-ins and grindhouses with mindlessly enjoyable product that might be picked up by a bigger distributor, as here with A.I.P., if they were lucky. Most of these would be fortunate to be recalled the week after they played, but a cult has grown up around such efforts, whether it's through their fans catching them on television or collecting them on budget home video.

Breaker! Breaker! is one of those to the core, and the western aspect comes into it when Billy is taking his cargo across the Californian desert highways when a police car leaps out in front of him and forces him to stop. The cop tells him there's a detour and that he has to take this less well-travelled road, and Billy does so, little knowing he has stumbled onto a trap. The town up ahead is run by the corrupt Trimmings family, and have taken advantage of their newfound official status by waylaying travellers and fining them on jumped up charges, then allowing them to go on their way. Billy is having none of this so jumps out of the courthouse window but is caught and imprisoned. Now it's up to J.D. to save the day.

For some reason when you talk about a low budget film of this vintage, there's always something curious and alien which crops up, and with this you can take your pick. Witness the presence of Eraserhead hmself, Jack Nance as Chuck's best buddy who he shares lunch with, in his first film after working with David Lynch all those years and still with that off kilter tone to his performance. Or how about Chuck's van with an eagle painted onto the side, reverently presented as an object of vehicular fetishisation, but then abandoned once J.D. reaches the criminal community? The fact that it's not really Chuck who saves the day, but the wife of a Trimming who has taken it upon herself to rebel? The way that the final fight sequence, with Chuck shrugging off a bullet to the gut, is held with a character who has barely registered for the last seventy-five minutes or so? Yes, there's a lot that doesn't quite fit about this, but some would not have it any other way. Music by the director, Don Hulette.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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