Directed by Don Hulette in 1977, Breaker! Breaker! stars Chuck Norris in an early lead role. The movie might not reinvent the wheel, but it's a fun drive-in style action movie in which Norris plays a trucker named John David 'J.D.' Dawes. But before we get to him, let's talk about his kid brother Billy (Michael Augenstein) who winds up in some hot water in the town of Texas City, California. When he crosses the man who runs the town, Judge Joshua Trimmings (George Murdock), he's sentenced to jail but Billy isn't about to just take that. Soon enough, he's roughed up and beaten down and then… he disappears.
That's where we come back to J.D., see, he's not just going to sit idly by while his kid brother is missing. He knows that Billy was in Texas City and so he hops into his rig and heads on into town to do some digging around. Of course, all the cops are corrupt and Trimmings is onto J.D. from the start, but he's going to get his brother back no matter what. And, for the rest of the movie, he goes about doing just that and thankfully he's got a few truck driving buddies (one of whom is played by Jack Nance!) waiting in the wings to help him out if he needs it. Along the way he makes some time to romance local hottie Arlene Trimmings (Terry O'Connor).
Breaker! Breaker! is pretty much the epitome of the ‘loner takes on corrupt small town officials' sub-genre of drive-in/action movies. Although the trailer and one sheet for the movie play up the ‘big rig' angle of the film (beating Sam Peckinpah's much more truck-centric Convoy to the big screen by a year) the fact of the matter is that the trucks only figure into the beginning and then, of course, the high octane finale. Most of what happens in the seventy minutes that fills the rest of the movie is Chuck moving around town and getting into fights. Granted, he does this well. Someone will talk back to him, get kicked in the face, his buddies will join in and then they too will get kicked in the face. Lots of people get kicked in the face here and there's something to be said for that in a movie like this.
But it really is a predictable and cliché ridden movie. Norris is Norris. Never the world's greatest actor the script from Terry Chambers plays to his strengths. The movie doesn't ask him to get too dramatic, rather it does a fine job of moving him along from one face-kicking set piece to the next. He's likeable enough in the role but, not surprisingly, a bit wooden. On the other hand, we have George Murdock as the Wild Turkey swigging judge. He's basically a ‘Boss Hog' style character (and oddly enough he did appear in an episode of The Dukes Of Hazzard two years later), he's got the same sort of hammy, greasy, crooked way about him and he does what he does here well. He's maybe not breaking any new ground but he's pretty fun in the part. There rest of the cast are fairly disposable but our two leads do okay with the material they've been given.
As to the action itself, it's well staged. Hulette seems to enjoy using slow motion in quite a few of the fisticuff sequences and when she does, we get to see Norris flying through the air doing his thing and it is admittedly pretty impressive. The fact is, the guy's martial arts skills are considerable and the fight choreography in the film gives him ample opportunity to show them off. The violence is constant, but having said that, it's also pretty watered down. If you go into this one expecting bloodshed and carnage you'll be disappointed for although there's plenty of hand to hand combat and some gunplay, there's very little in the way of gore. The big finish is impressive. Without wanting to get too spoiler heavy let it suffice to say that J.D. calls in some friends to do what they do best and the resulting on-screen chaos is on a pretty decent scale and a lot of fun to watch. This isn't a fancy film, nor is it deep, but it's entertaining enough.The Blu-ray:
Olive Films presents Breaker! Breaker! on Blu-ray in its proper 1.85.1 theatrical widescreen aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. For the most part, the movie looks quite good on Blu-ray. There are some spots where grain gets a little thick but these moments are few and far between and obviously a result of the elements. Detail is pretty solid throughout, close ups in particular, while black levels are strong and generally pretty inky. Nicely lit outdoor shots really look quite good and indoor shots fare well too. Skin tones look nice and natural, there are no signs of edge enhancement or noise reduction and although the disc is single layered compression artifacts are never an issue. This blows the old DVD release from MGM out of the water.Sound:
The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono mix, there are no alternate language options offered nor are there any closed captioning or subtitles options provided. Clarity of the audio is fine. The levels are nicely balanced and there are problems with any hiss or distortion and the film's quirky score has some decent presence to it in spots. Not a fancy mix, but it suits the movie and gets the job done without any issues.Extras:
No extras aside from a trailer, static menus and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
Breaker! Breaker! is completely generic but it's reasonably entertaining stuff, especially if you have an affinity for seventies-era trucker/C.B. movies and/or Chuck Norris himself. It might be one giant ninety minute cliché but it's got some fun action and a pretty truck-tastic finale. Less discerning action fans should enjoy this and Olive's Blu-ray, while light on extras, gives the movie a pretty nice transfer and decent lossless audio. A solid rental, casually recommended for hardcore Norris-ites.