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The Wild Sylvester Stallone Arm-Wrestling Movie You Likely Never Knew Existed

Sylvester Stallone has been working as an actor since 1969 when he appeared in a drama called "The Square Root." While this screen debut may have not gained a ton of attention, it wasn't long until he was noticed for his co-starring role in 1974's "The Lords of Flatbush." But, of course, it was 1976's "Rocky," which he also wrote the screenplay for, that truly put Stallone on the map and gave him movie star status. "Rocky" resulted in two Oscar nominations for Stallone, for best actor and best original screenplay. Over the years, Stallone has continued to star in prominent films, many of which have become franchises — "Rocky," 1982's "First Blood" (aka the first of the "Rambo" films), and 2010's "The Expendables" all had several sequels.

Overall, with nearly 100 acting credits to his name, some of Stallone's films are bound to have flown under the radar. One of those lesser-known efforts is a wild sports drama centered on the world of arm-wrestling called "Over the Top." 

Stallone starred in Over the Top in 1987

Much like many of his other films (including the "Rocky" series and "The Expendables" franchise), Sylvester Stallone also lent his writing skills to "Over the Top" — he co-wrote the script with Stirling Silliphant ("In the Heat of the Night"). Directed by Menahem Golan, the 1987 film follows long-haul truck driver Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) who moonlights as a professional arm-wrestler. As with any great sports movie, the film builds to a high-stakes event — in this case, the World Armwrestling Championship in Las Vegas — where Hawk hopes to win enough money to get his life in order and reconnect with his estranged son, Michael (David Mendenhall).

In December of 2006, Stallone sat down for an interview with Ain't It Cool News to discuss the actor's career. After the interviewer called "Over the Top" one of their favorites, Stallone admitted that there are a few details about the film that he would do a bit differently.

Stallone said, "I would have made it less glossy and set it more in an urban environment, for one. Next, I would've not used a never-ending stream of rock songs, but scored music instead, and most likely would've made the event in Vegas more ominous — not so carnival-like."

Critics didn't love Over the Top

As it turns out, critics are in agreement with Sylvester Stallone that the concept was not executed as well as it could have been. "Over the Top" currently holds a 32% critic's score on Rotten Tomatoes next to a 49% audience score. Just about every aspect of the film — writing, acting, etc — was called out by critics as missing its target.

Tony Mastroianni of the Akron Beacon Journal, for one, couldn't exactly take the central action of the film — that of an arm-wrestling match — seriously. Mastroianni wrote, "The arm-wrestling championship eats up about a third of the movie, which is a lot of grunting, snarling and perspiring. All things being relative, this beats what passes for drama in the rest of the movie." Meanwhile, Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times was distracted by the too-frequent product placement throughout the film.

On the more positive side of things, Jason Bailey of Flavorwire looked back on the film in 2013 and admitted to it being a bad movie — but one that is so bad it's good. Bailey wrote, "It is, as I've probably made clear, not good filmmaking. It's cliché-ridden, wildly incompetent, and laughably serious about itself. But if you saw it at the right age (I was 12 when it came out), and if you approach it in the right frame of mind, it's a pretty easy way to kill a couple of hours on TBS." Similarly, Mark Sanderson of Time Out noted all the details of the film that don't add up, but still ended the review by declaring that Stallone's Hawk is an easy hero to root for, at the very least.