People forget in this age of Internet memes that before he was playfully elevated to martial arts God (normal people with a sense of humor) or Republican man of ideas with his finger on the pulse of modern US policy positions (morons), Chuck Norris was an F grade actor in Z grade karate pictures that gave Godfrey Ho a run for his very little money.
Not content to simply grind out Hong Kong or Spaghetti actioners, which is sort of where the former competitive black belt was headed after Return of the Dragon, Norris instead returned to Hollywood. This actually turned out to be a decent career move for the soon-to-be-mustached ass-kicker because he shacked up with B houses that primarily produced films for the drive in market. I don't know if these were second billed or not, but they sure weren't A pictures in the traditional sense.
In the 1970s the drive in was already on the wane as smaller cinemas expanded into multiplexes that could offer second run films along with regular first run shows. His films like the soon to be dissected Breaker! Breaker! also played in the cheapo cinemas, and wound up, more often than not, on UHF TV which is where I first encountered this film, and later when Cable TV brought movie channels directly to the home, they filled the off peak hours with years of shit like Breaker! Breaker!
Norris though, made enough of a mark to move from utter horse shit like this to much, much better films. One, Lone Wolf McQuade, is a regular feature here at McLargehuge Acres, he then plummeted from those into more utter crap -- but his hilariously steep downward trajectory that at one time had him competing in syndication with non-English speaking Samo Hung for karate cop show fans -- is for another review.
So what the hell is Breaker! Breaker! anyway? In the shortest possible terms it's a terrible, stupid, western with trucks instead of horses. As a weird side note I was going to suggest that Breaker! Breaker! was a cheapo Godfrey-Ho-tastic knock off of Convoy! Except Convoy! was made/released two years later. There are some considerable similarities between the two films, most notably that they both suck, but you could make a pretty strong argument that the trucks smashing up the western back lot in Breaker! Breaker! could be the same trucks smashing up the western back lot in Convoy! and you'd probably be right. There's a lot more that's the same too, Earnest Borgnine's evil sheriff Lyle Wallace is the same sort of evil as George Murdock. Finally, the overall plot where Rubber Duck drives to the rescue of Franklyn Ajaye is the same plot as Chuck Norris riding to the rescue of Michael Augenstein. There's also lots of hip (for 1977) CB Radio chatter that will probably make you want to stab yourself in the face with a pair of rusty garden shears after thirty or so seconds.
If you're reading this review and thinking "Big, CB Radio? Truckers? Chuck Norris, man! What the fuck are you talking about?" Read on and all will be revealed, good buddy, just make sure you have your ears on.
Let's begin at the beginning where Sheriff Trimmings (George Murdoch) is revealing that his western backlot has just been accepted as incorporated into California as a town, the town of Texas City! Woo hoo cheer and whoop. Incidentally, Texas City, is where we will spend 90% of our movie is very clearly an old Western set that's ripe for demolition. But that doesn't matter yet. We cut to our man J.D. Dawes (Chuck Norris) arriving at a truck stop and seeking out his younger brother, Billy (Michael Augenstein) who seems to be racing a dirt bike around a moto-cross track, but the motorcycles are a mix of enduro and street models with a few dirt bikes in the mix, and everyone seems to be riding in a random pattern. Billy ditches the bike and is surprised that J.D. is standing there. Turns out that not only is J.D. a long hauler, he's an amateur arm-wrestler for money, and sort of like Any Which Way But Lose, which was a funny redneck idiot movie, J.D., like Philo, also gets in a ton of bare knuckled fights. Before you can say "Hey, is that Chuck Norris eating an omelet?" he's been challenged to some sort of toughman contest. Meanwhile he's got a truckload of TV Dinners to deliver.
Some of you, no doubt, will be scratching your head and asking "what the hell is a TV dinner?" Allow me to offer you a History Channel moment. TV Dinners were invented in the mid-1950s as a way to allow (nuclear) families to eat preprocessed food without the dull drudgery of leaving their living rooms or the cool glow of their Television Sets. Meals were usually some chicken or meatloaf type protein, whipped potatoes, corn, and a brownie or other dessert. TV dinners purchased frozen at the supermarket and after heating in a conventional oven were served in segmented foil pans with foil covers. You can still find this type of TV dinner around, but in nowhere near the volume as in the pre-microwave 1970s.
I'm regaling you with tales of TV dinners because the stupid things actually become a plot point in this movie.
During his few scant minutes at the truck stop, J.D. also learns that one of his trucker buddies is paralyzed and nearly dead (though he's sitting upright in a rig) after a near fatal beating at the hands of the sheriff of Texas City. Seems they beat him so badly they broke his spine. To illustrate the gravity of this injury our trucker is decked out in a $4 neck brace and also sports an ace bandage wrapped around his head.
J.D. learns about Texas City's brutal sheriff from that trucker-friend's wife who may as well end her plot-point drop off with "Tell em' Large Marge sent ya!"
Not surprisingly to anyone who's spent more than a passing hour or two with the works of Chuck Norris, he's out acted in this scene not only by Large Marge, but also by the nearly dead trucker in the "Shaws Supermarkets First Aid Aisle" quality bandages, and the trucks.
Chuck isn't known for his range as an actor, he's known for his Tang Soo Do chops, groin high side kicks, and chest pelt of Sasquatch fur. We're already like fifteen minutes into this stupid movie already and there hasn't been a karate fight ye. But, don't worry, that'll change in a scene or two.
So, where were we? Oh, right! Billy is off driving the load of delicious TV Dinners to their destination while J.D. is trying to have a nice quiet breakfast in a truckstop set. But, since he's Chuck Norris and all he can't even have that. Before he even manages to order toast someone has challenged him to some sort of contest in the "billiards room" (not seen in this film). We cut back and forth for a while between Billy and J.D. and all the while Billy is getting further and further off what looks to be like modern roads. He gets detoured at least twice by cops related to Texas City onto roads that aren't even roads, they're just dirt tracks carved into the desert. Billy, in case you haven't realized it yet, is sort of an idiot.
See, one of the reasons we cut back and forth between Billy and the breakfastless J.D. is so Billy can regale us with reams of CB Radio chatter that goes something like this -
"Breaker 19, this is Tooth and Nail, come back. We got two all beef patties up in my poop-canker?"
"Roger that Tooth and Nail my old lady pooted ping pong balls dingly dang doodle, come back!"
"Git git git, there's an orgy of bears down here on the clean white lines I huff paint dangly doo!?"
"Meth! Meth! Meth! Meth!"
You get the idea. The point is that dumb-shit Billy has a radio that he's been blathering on in every scene where he's behind the wheel yet doesn't bother to ask any of the other trucker morons out on the highways if being detoured into the open desert is normal. Breaker! Breaker! makes a mistake here too by showing us that the characters can only see what's in the frame. See, they set up the detour this way - Billy is driving down a long straight dirt road, we watch him for a good forty seconds as he drives and finally reaches over to fiddle with the radio. At that exact second, the deputy of Texas City - Curt Reynolds - careens out of the dust, backwards, in his patrol car forcing Billy to stop.
Bill is driving through miles of open desert. Miles. And, for some reason he can't see the black and white just off the side of the road?
Billy gets detoured again and, before he thinks to call for help he's arrested and hauled into the western gunfighter movie town ruins that stand in for Texas City.
Back at the truck stop set, Chuck is arm wrestling among all of the other truckers with a guy named The Polish Angel. While this occurs the waitresses who have no names in the film banter about how sucky their life is. Why is this scene here? This scene is here because the 1970s were the weird pinnacle of movies about normal people with normal people problems like, for example, Car Wash, or Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. So, as a way to shoehorn that cred into this crud, we get two nameless waitresses who banter on just long enough to make you wish they'd all get run over by a truck.
Back in Texas City, Billy learns that his total cost to get out of Texas City is $250, a princely sum in 1977 dollars. He gets his sentence handed down by the mayor (and presiding judge) Joshua Trimmings (George Murdock) he comes out of the fine and understated acting school of B western drunk evil sheriffs -- I think that might be an actual course at University of Phoenix Online -- and as this whole town set was ripped, dusty, hand painted signs, crooked cops and all from a 1930's Republic Pictures western it sort of makes sense.
That said, George Murdock who was primarily a TV actor, seemed to relish his rather lengthy dialogue spasms as written into the stupid script of Breaker! Breaker! and he doesn't spare the chewing. Judge/Mayor Trimmings is the only reason to spend more than 1 minute in this movie. That said, Murdock's performance is even more bizarre as he is CLEARLY among cheap dilapidated sets that look like they are about to crash in around him. Billy gets charged with speeding, failure to stop, driving and overweight truck, and failure to keep a log.
Back at the truckstop set, J.D. beats The Polish Angel in an arm wrestling contest and for his trouble wins a punch in a the face from The Polish Angel. This sets off a claustrophobic break-away furniture fulled truck stop set fight that sees the first karate action of this stupid movie.
Back in Texas City, Billy reacts to his sentence ($250 or 250 days) by attacking deputy Curt Reynolds and sheriff Strode before leaping through the window and being instantly caught.
Cut to J.D. regaling a couple of karate students with some vintage 1970s martial arts mumbo jumbo about finding your third eye. There was tons of this sort of crap in karate movies in the 1970s and 80s, I guess it was meant to keep an air of mysterious about the arts themselves. A holdover, no doubt from both the little speech that Bruce Lee gives at the beginning of Enter the Dragon and reinforced by all the mystical crap in the Kung Fu TV series. That said, if like me you are a martial artist and this sort of mystical unnecessaryness makes you mental, keep in mind that these lines are delivered by Chuck Norris wearing a sequined collar disco jumpsuit and nearly overwhelming urge to reverse punch the TV into atoms goes away -- mostly.
J.D. gets interrupted by one of his friends from the truck stop set. Seems that Billy didn't arrive with the TV dinners, the state police don't have him, and he never managed to show up at one of the local scales (where they weigh rigs to ensure they aren't overweight).
They work out that Billy is probably in Texas City and J.D. is warned to be careful before heading out there. He immediately heads out there in the hallmark of 70s cool, a Ford van with a giant eagle decal stuck on the side. We immediately nicknamed this van "The Chuck Mobile."
Since Texas City is in the middle of the desert we're treated to several minutes of The Chuck Mobile cruising over sandy trails and past sagebrush. I get this though, it's meant to be a modern western, it's just that I am not so used to being hit over the head with it so hard. Know what I mean? Once in Texas City, the films follows all of the normal conventions of a modern film western. J.D. asks around for Billy, gets treated like an outsider, and finds an ally who'll help him solve the mystery of the missing brother and truckload of TV dinners.
What you'll probably notice -- at least I did -- was just how bad the set design was throughout ANY of the scenes in Texas City. The place is a wreck, no one could live there, even The Manson Family would have moved on to better buildings than whatever was made for whichever flea-budget westerns were shot on this lot.
Anyway, on the way to The Shittiest Town in the West, Chuck, during an extended sequence of driving around in the desert like he'd passed out from heat prostration and drove in unconscious random semi straight lines, ends up being shot at by a couple of moonshiners up in the hills near Texas City. This is meant to set up a plot device later that makes leaving the Texas City set more difficult. Namely, that the radiator is "shot" -- har har har -- and getting a new (used) one installed will take a few days.
Cut briefly to a married couple who've been fleeced by the local constabulary. The wife complains enough to draw out Deputy Boles (Ron Cedillos) -- I call him Deputy Curt Reynolds in this review because he has a dead-on Burt Reynolds 1979 Mustache -- who promptly beats the shit out her husband.
Cut back to J.D. meeting with the local Faulknerian Manchild Idiot, Arnie who tells J.D. that it'll be his brother who fixes the radiator if he can get one from the local wrecking yard. J.D. notices that there's a tractor trailer tire that Arnie is trying to remove from a rim. J.D. shows him how, which is silly, but it sets up another plot point, namely that J.D. now knows that the his truck was probably stripped and sold.
In town J.D. immediately heads for the Sheriff's office and learns that only a replacement Gabby Hayes is on duty in town as both Sheriff Strode and his two deputies are off on patrol. Which can't take all that long since the town is almost a whole one hundred yards long and deep. J.D. asks who's the town authority, and learns that it's our old pal the Mayor/Judge who is across the street drinking.
Now we get our second interior shot that shows just how unbelievably awful the sets are. Three tables, flat black painted walls, some dolls, and the whole thing looks like it'll fall down if Chuck Norris farts too hard. We get to watch Judge Trimming overact for a while before J.D. finally makes his presence known by asking if he can lodge a complaint. Trimmings blathers on and even quotes Shakespeare before J.D. leaves both without any information, or any reason for that scene to have existed. Trimmings goes back to trying to woo the barmaid -- who is the only other person in the bar by the way -- with more Shakespeare.
We cut to the scrap yard where J.D. is ready to pick up his radiator. We get an establishing shot of a car crusher, so we all know that'll come back into this movie somewhere down the line. The guy running the yard has the single greatest uni-brow since the extinction of the Neanderthals or the death of Frida Kahlo. Seems even the junk yard is part of the overall lure in then pray on passers by (who blunder in the middle of the desert) that appears to be the only industry in the whole town.
Back at the repair garage Sheriff Strode and Deputy Curt Reynolds read the registration and realize that J.D. is Billy's brother although no one has seen J.D. now except for Arnie and Arnie's brother who owns the garage.
Speaking of Arnie, it's about time to get another plot point from our beloved idiot. Arnie is delivering J.D.'s rebuilt radiator when he encounters J.D. on the street. They get into a conversation about brothers so that J.D. can awkwardly ask Arnie if he's seen Billy around. The local shop keep chases Arnie off before he can spill anything about the whereabouts of Billy or the truck full of TV dinners.
Sheriff Strode and Deputy Curt Reynolds meet Mayor Trimmings in the bar and deliver the information they learned from J.D.'s truck. This is the point when I begin to think the script was never really edited for clarity. See, not two minutes ago J.D. was in the same bar talking to the same Mayor Trimmings and yet Trimmings drives him off with mumbo jumbo rather than try to draw any sort of information out of him about who he is or why he's in their fair city.
I would be willing to wager a small sum, perhaps a dollar or two, that Director Don Hulette simply said "ACTION!" and let both Mayor Trimmings and J.D. make up their awkward stilted dialogue during their meeting and no one thought to just cut that scene out altogether or edit the subsequent script pages that their meeting renders moot.
Like this one.
J.D. wanders into the local coffee shop which happens to be staffed by Mayor Trimmins' daughter and asks to use the phone - there isn't one. And, in keeping with the local hospitality vibe, he's presented with a higher priced menu than that used by the locals when he tries to order breakfast and coffee. J.D. orders a donut, considering the set looks like it's covered in flecks of deadly black mold from an especially martial arts happy episode of Hoarders, I don't blame him. He makes small talk with Trimmins' daughter, Arlene (Terry O'Connor). She ends up being the only friendly face in town, other than Arnie. The cook gives Arlene some shit about her conversation with J.D. (nothing like a big red flag there) but it's enough to chase J.D. outside where Sheriff Strode and Deputy Curt Reynolds are waiting. They lay into J.D. immediately without knowing that he's Chuck Norris and get a few cheap shots in before he flattens them both and runs off.
A word here about the fight sequences in Breaker! Breaker! For all the shit I talk about this movie, Director Don Hewlett at least keeps the fights somewhat coherent. He doesn't move the camera around much but he does use subtle sound effects and banjo fight music to liven things up.
Hollywood in the 1970s really hadn't figured out what to do with karate fights in movies. Directors at the time weren't wise enough to seek out a fight coordinator from Shaw Brothers, or Toei rather, they sort of let the ISKA Black Belt Champion who was also Chuck Norris design the fights. So, if you ever wondered where all of the two men seeming to fight on a single two-dimensional plane that you see in almost every fighting video game, you got it here.
Now, while the fights are coherent, they aren't in any way shape for form, exciting. Anyway, J.D. runs off into the desert.
Back in town the two morons who initially shot out J.D.'s radiator are on their way back from their hilltop distillery (they's makin' shiinnnnnneeeee) when they run afoul of Arnie's brother (who also maybe, due to the confusing nature of the dialogue, their cousin) for making fun or Arnie. And, judging by the sorry state of everyone in Texas City, I wouldn't be going too far out of my way to call anyone there a moron or retard without thinking I could also be talking about myself.
J.D. runs into Arlene and her son out in the middle of the scrublands. Why the hell she's out driving around in Gila Monster Territory is anyone's guess, but I am going to suggest that the limited number of patrons in the scuzzy fucking diner suggested her shift might have ended early.
Anyway, she's sort of a surrogate Alice from Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, and the spin off TV show, Alice, in that she's got an obnoxious kid, works as a waitress, and has hair, and most importantly, isn't married to anyone.
Back at her place, J.D. connects with his pal Burton, from the truck stop, and learns that no one has heard from Billy yet. He also learns that "every trucker in California is looking for Billy". Strangely none of them think to look in Texas City where pretty much everyone else figures he is. Also strange, J.D. doesn't ask Burton to, I don't know, call the regular cops, call the Attorney General, someone, ANYONE, to send help to Texas City.
Here's the spot in the film where Don Hulette figured the teens who were making out (or more), or the folks lined up for the bathroom and snacks at the snack bar, have returned to watching the film so we get a few seconds for J.D. to refresh the plot, Billy's missing, and the setting, Billy might be here in Texas City, to his new pal Arlene. The thing is, the way he does this it's like J.D. isn't really sure. As if the beating he got and gave to Sheriff Strode and Deputy Curt Reynolds, the shots fired at his eagle van, the rambling incoherence from Mayor Trimmings, aren't enough to convince him that they all add up to Billy is here in Texas City and the Sheriff has him locked up somewhere.
This refresh of the plot actually leads to the most bizarrely placed, and one of the most terribly scored, romantic interludes in all of B-film. One, the entire conversation between J.D. and Arlene may have helped move the plot, but we can't hear it over a blast of terrible singer/songrwriter crap. Also, this isn't really a montage, it's a fauxtage in that the scenes never really change, it's just J.D. and Arlene walking and mumbling.
Back in town (post fauxtage), Mayor Trimmins is running what appears to be a town meeting in which we learn that Texas City makes all of its municipal money from two sources - scrapping trucks, and distilling moonshine. The mind fucking boggles at how this is meant to tie Texas City into any sort of objective reality. I mean, prohibition ENDED in 1933, how the fuck can they make any sort of money with moonshine? Who are the customers? Is there a time vortex or something that gives them access to a 1920s speakeasy in which to sell their rotgut?
Doesn't matter. J.D. arrives to stir up some shit anyway so talk of "revenuers" ends and karate fighting begins. J.D. kicks his way to freedom and manages to hide from all of the males in town between the ages of 15 and 35 as they barrel out of the courthouse. He does this by, and I'm not kidding, climbing through the rotted metal roof of the courthouse porch. Since Texas City is clearly a back lot set they don't bother trying cover things like, the mats that line the floor of the courthouse.
Don Hulette also doesn't do anything to camouflage Chuck Norris' astonishingly awful acting. He is utterly terrible and whenever the camera is on him for more than two seconds he looks completely baffled by the world around him and reacts like he's rehearsing for a late night discount catheter supply commercial. His complete lack of acting chops (not karate chops) especially evident when he's sharing the screen with anyone who isn't a ramshackle building. Anyway, he beats up the town's entire male population, runs to his van and leads Sheriff Strode and Deputy Curt Reynolds on a high speed chase through a nearby sandpit.
This car chase fails on every single level; it's dusty, the spacial relationships between the cars doesn't make sense, they appear to be chasing each other around the same three trees and over the same little hill, and there isn't a paved road in sight. He loses his pursuers by driving up a hill.
Because J.D. is an idiot he immediately heads back into town to shack up with Arlene. She tells him to hide his truck out back. Careful viewers will note that Arlene appears to live in a condemned house. Another illustration of the pathetic quality of everything associated with this film.
Cut to another ramshackle shithole, this one is Judge Trimming's house and he's inside dressing down bother Sheriff Strode and Deputy Curt Reynolds while holding a cat like a blue-pajama wearing super low rent Bond villain. Trimmings tells them to kill J.D. if he comes into town again.
J.D has a nightmare of Sheriff Strode shooting Billy in the back. He wakes up screaming in the arms of Arlene then falls immediately back to sleep. The next morning we cut to one of the locals, the guy from the Moonshine Still, loading his helicopter (?) up with cans of something - probably moonshine now that I think about it, then we cut to J.D. eating breakfast in Arlene's kitchen. Her brat kid asks if J.D. is going to be his new dad.
Kid, really? REALLY?
Chuck Norris, for what it's worth, looks like he'd rather be dry humping a 5 five pound burlap sack of broken fluorescent light bulbs than acting in this scene, and all he has to do is sit there and hold his coffee cup. Cut back to the chopper hovering over Arlene's house, the pilot spots The Eagle Van and calls it in. Back inside, where neither J.D. nor Arlene, nor the world's dumbest kid, can hear the helicopter outside.
I ask, have you ever heard a helicopter? Those things make a hell of a racket.
Anyway, Arlene serves Dumbfuck Son a frozen TV dinner. AHA! J.D. now knows that Billy's truck was hijacked in town (we did say he wasn't the smartest Tang Soo Do guy in the movies, right?). Arlene tells J.D. that Arnie brought them over. J.D. storms out with Arlene in pursuit. She tells him to leave it alone, that the townsfolk of Texas City (who all appear to be related to her) will kill him.
He says there's only one place in town where they could hide Billy's rig, then tells her to get her stuff packed because he'll be back to take her and Tony (her mental midget of a son) away. Like after one night she'd run off with him? I mean, it was the 1970s and he was looked like a guy smuggling Tribbles in the front of his shirt, but really? Also, Arlene has a car. He could just have told her "hey, Arlene, leave town. I'll meet you back where we've invented asphalt and you can get another awesome job as a skeezy waitress..."
I guess that such dialogue or plotting wouldn't play to his idiom. No, and with this being a sendup of a modern western, J.D. has to head back into town to rescue his brother. It doesn't take more than a few minutes before he's knocked flat and locked up. Actually, he has to go find Billy's truck first, and with the clues liberally sprinkled around the town like the truck tires at the garage where he buys a second hand radiator, and Arlene's sumptuous TV dinners, it's surprising that it's taken this long to get J.D. to the wrecking yard.
At the Yard, J.D. finds Billy's truck alright, and after a drawn out fight find himself thrown into the car crusher. One of Trimmings henchman is hovering in a chopper (played in this film by a guy sitting in a chopper with a camera man lying on the ground half under the cockpit so it appears to be flying) over the junkyard as J.D. makes his way in. He begins dropping bottles of hooch that explode. J.D. escapes the crusher with Arnie's help, then kicks the wrecking yard owner into the car crusher and smooshes him good.
Arnie sees this and becomes even more annoying. Fortunately, sort of, up to now there hasn't been much of Arnie in this movie after his original introduction. But he gets to be more important here, because his brother, the guy who owns the garage that was going to replace J.D.'s radiator with the overpriced one from the wrecking yard… But I'm getting ahead of myself.
J.D. gets caught and ends up in the frontier style jailhouse of Texas City. Actually, that's sort of a misnomer, because it appears that J.D. was only in the cell long enough to have a still picture taken as every single cutaway to him in the cell is identical.
Mayor/Judge Trimmins comes and pronounces sentence. Death. (as if that would stand up in any sort of court, but I guess if you can imagine Chuck Norris driving an eagle festooned van into a movie prop town and beating the shit out of the local cops with impunity, can you buy a death sentence.
Trimmins puts all of this into play. He tells Deputy Curt Reynolds to take J.D. out behind the sheriff's office and shoot him. Trimmins leaves, only to be glimpsed one other time in the film. In fact, a whole lot of baffling shit happens right about the time that Chuck Norris becomes a still picture, and since I had a lovely 7 month break from this review due to reasons beyond even Head Cheeze's control, I managed to land back at the movie right here. Were I fortunate enough to have never seen the preceding 60 someodd minutes of Breaker! Breaker! I may well have thought the last 20 were some weird-ass German impressionist experimental film. I don't know who dosed both Don Hulette and the editor with some industrial strength mescaline, but someone must have, either that or Don Hulette had his brain switched with a chicken or something.
At this point in the film, Don Hulette abandons all pretense of giving any sort of shit about storytelling and sets up a single fight between J.D. and Deputy Curt Reynolds. All of the other villains, Sheriff Strode, Mayor/Judge Trimmins – they all virtually disappear from the story. J.D. never speaks another line of dialogue from the moment he goes to jail.
Meanwhile, back at Arline's dilapidated shack: Arline sneaks off on a minibike with Sheriff Strode in pursuit. Her obvious stuntman manages to dodge the cop car until she minibike climbs up a little hill that is too steep for the car to follow. How obvious? I refer you to the film "The Dirt Bike Kid" starring Christmas Story favorite Peter Billingsly where Peter Billingsly transmogrifies from a 4 foot tall kid to a seventeen foot tall stuntman every single time he rides his magical dirt bike.
Only, Breaker! Breaker! is worse, because not only is the stuntman a giant, it's also a dude, and Breaker! Breaker! wasn't made to appear to the Arnies of the world, but presumably fully adultified adults.
However, since Don Hulette was no doubt listening to Hotel California in a haze of formaldehyde tainted weed smoke by this point in the production, the script needs a way to transmogrify Obvious Stunt Man back into Arline. She ditches the bike, and in magical fashion, picks herself up. The bike is toast, apparently a 1 mile per hour stop and topple into the grass is enough to kill a minibike. She runs off after the sound of – wait for it – CB Radio chatter!
She finds a seemingly abandoned cop car with a working CB radio in it, calls out to all the local truckers to come and rescue J.D. Dawes. How she knew that Trimmins had given him a death sentence is anyone's guess. Doesn't matter though, as soon as she finds her kid – Oh look there he is in the back seat – she doesn't appear in the film again.
Cut to about three minutes of stock footage of tractor trailer trucks with an overdub of irritating CB radio talk. Apparently all of the truckers (none of whom we will actually see as humans) know all about the crooks in Texas City. Since this is a western it's time for frontier justice as the posse of completely different big rigs rides into town to rescue J.D.
Right now this splits into two completely different films, one where trucks pull a low-rent Maximum Overdrive and smash up a crumbling movie ranch while extras run to and fro through the mayhem, and one where J.D. Dawes has his final battle. Let's deal with the trucks first.
The trucks don't just appear in town, they have to crash through a one-cop car by two saw horse blockade first. Standing beside the blockade is Sheriff Strode. The trucks roar past, and Strode is never seen in the film again. In town, as the trucks are smashing through everything no one things to stop and walk into the sheriff's office to see if J.D. is still in lockup.
That's probably good, because he isn't, but let's stick with the trucks for a moment. Mayor/Judge Trimmins is in bed with what is presumed to be his wife. The sound of a truck rumbling around outside startles him from his nap. A truck smashes through his house.
We don't see him again either.
In the midst of this, to liven things up I guess, we get some superimposed fire as the trucks bring rumbling Armageddon to Texas City.
Back in the other movie, Arnie, who is still messed up over the wrecking yard car crusher incident, walks to the barn where, not only does his very presence spook the horses, but he has a creepy-ass stuffed animal stored in a box. This whole segment plays out like some weird-ass East German underground film. Arnie hugs the stuffed animal, a horse freaks out in the stall somewhere else in the barn as it's never in the same frame as Arnie. Arnie has as vision of a rat climbing on a wrist-watched hand, screams, we cut back to the horse freaking out in a stall, then back to Arnie crying. Arnie then walks away.
Ok movie, thanks for that…
Arnie's brother, pressed into service by Deputy Curt Reynolds and told to bring J.D. out back and shoot him. J.D. transmogrifies from his state as a still image and is walked out of the sheriff's office. J.D. in the one scene that isn't completely idiotic this far into the film, isn't really sure what to do about the gun pointed at him. It's clearly too far away from a patented Chuck Norris side kick, and there's a good chance if he pulls any shit he'll get shot. He tosses a handful of sand and, much like I would imagine in real life, J.D. gets gut shot. As he slowly realizes the depth of his predicament, Arnie leaps on his brother and wrestles him for the gun. Arnie is shot (the audience cheers… at least, we did.). Realizing how shitty his life is now that his "full retard" brother is dead, Arnie's brother tells J.D. where his brother is being held.
J.D. shambles off, bleeding, to find Billy.
Cut to Deputy Curt Reynolds cutting Billy loose and telling him to "git". But, every time Billy tries to leave, Deputy Curt Reynolds kicks him back to the ground. Catching sight of this is J.D. who is already, shot, pissed off, and completely devoid of logical villains to fight. Before Deputy Curt Reynolds can shoot, J.D. kicks him through the breakaway wall of the stable. Honestly, if the place was that shoddy, Billy could have escaped like ten times already.
J.D. and Billy embrace as Deputy Curt Reynolds sizes up J.D. then runs off a little ways. J.D. and he fight some, and for all the shit I talk about Don Hulette's direction, the fight scenes are pretty good. He has clearly watched Enter The Dragon at least a bazillion times because he apes several of that film's signature fight shots, the double leg drop kick, the fight with the broken bottle as a weapon, the perpetual slow motion. At least he manages to keep the camera still (a lost art, believe me), and off center so even though it's pretty much a guarantee that J.D. isn't really putting a roundhouse kick through Deputy Curt Reynolds' face, it sure looks like it.
After their uncomfortably long slow motion hug, Billy is never seen again.
J.D. gets dropped after a nice rock hard punch to the bullet wound. Deputy Curt Reynolds runs off. J.D. clearly needs to focus, and since he did that little thing way at the beginning of the film in his rhinestone karate pajamas he settles down to both meditate for a moment, and apparently, heal himself completely of a bullet wound to the kidney and pancreas. Hilariously this is accomplished to the sound of banjos. So it's sort of banjo-zen. J.D., healed by the strains of holy jug-band music, stands up and, Terminator like, walks to his final showdown with the only villain left in the movie: A Deputy who until the scene with Billy in the barn had exactly zero lines.
Doesn't matter really because by this time the audience was meant to be doing something else, sleeping or screwing or something, anything, that doesn't involve paying attention to the movie. How else could it be?
We get another silly German expressionist scene here as J.D. finds Deputy Curt Reynolds sitting atop an outdoor riding ring fence with a big black horse running around loose inside the ring. J.D. throws one of the rails down and jumps over the remaining two as a demonstration of his Wolverine-like healing abilities. The Deputy seems to know he's about to get a slow motion ass-kicking as he climbs slowly down from the rail, bottle of Wild Turkey in hand and offers one to "Trucker".
J.D. declines and the fight sort of plays out like this. Slow motion kick to face of Deputy. Cut to horse. Slow motion kick to Deputy. Cut to horse. Slow motion kick to Deputy. Cut to Horse. I guess the Deputy dies because after one kick he doesn't get up again, the horse jumps the fence, and we cut to a shot of flames climbing up the ruins of part of the movie ranch with Mayor/Judge Trimmings' opening speech about becoming a city playing over the flames.
End movie, good buddy.
Uh, wait, that was really the end? Yep. What is utterly astonishing about Breaker! Breaker! is how much better Convoy was with nearly identical material. It may help that Convoy had both Kris Kristoferson, and Ernest Borgnine, and Franklyn Ajaye, and that goddamn song giving it a plot, and Sam "Slo Mo More Squibs" Peckinpah behind the camera.
That's rather a lot of good qualities, now that I think about it. Maybe if Breaker! Breaker! had more talent in it than George Murdock and a still picture of Chuck Norris it could have aspired to the relative greatness that is Convoy; a film I still turn off after the first thirty minutes because the film can't rise above the CB radio gimmick at all. That said, compared to Breaker! Breaker!, Convoy is the Citizen Kane of stupid trucker movies.
Chuck Norris ... John David 'J.D.' Dawes
George Murdock ... Judge Joshua Trimmings
Terry O'Connor ... Arlene Trimmings
Don Gentry ... Sergeant Strode
John Di Fusco ... Arney (as John DiFusco)
Ron Cedillos ... Deputy Boles (Deputy Curt Reynolds)