Channel 19

Todd Dills

When Overdrive (briefly) went Hollywood

| June 03, 2008

Product placement: The Farmer reads iOverdrive in the cab.

A sign at the truck stop reads: “We do not recommend any diesel garage.” What does that mean? We don’t recommend any non-specialist garage, with technicians who don’t know big rigs? Stick with the experts who work here at the truck stop?

When the Macks head south of the border, Liston says, “Now you know why I had to come along. … To make sure you get through Juarez without unloading.” Throughout the movie, Mexico is depicted as a lawless, dangerous place for truckers (and, by implication, for anyone else), and the only Mexicans we meet are villains. These attitudes are still common in the industry decades later, as the recent controversy over President Bush’s cross-border trucking program makes clear.

Bonding, Napier and Liston exchange endearments over the CB: “You lonely again?” “Hey, you blond wetback.” “Me and this beautiful engine are having a love affair.”

Napier on Sam Blue: “I do all the work, and he gets all the money. No wonder they call him Uncle Sam.” One does wonder how Napier’s salary for this movie compared to Egan’s.

While Napier is asleep and dreaming of an old girlfriend, Egan’s character comes and goes, unseen, presumably because Egan still was unavailable for filming. (The opening credits list Robbins as singing a second song, “Get You Off My Mind,” and the tune we briefly during Napier’s sexy dream just might be it.)

The head villain shoots at Napier, but why? Doesn’t he realize that the trucks are delivering his $2 million? He’s certainly a poor shot; Napier has plenty of opportunity to unload his Chalmers forklift and use it to push the villain off the cliff. (Probably Chalmers was ambivalent about the value of this product placement.)

Egan finally shows up. Before, his character was clueless about the load, but now he seems to know all about it. “I think the ice’ll melt faster when we get the pilot,” he says, etc.

Note that when leaving the ranch, the Farmer lifts the gate himself, apparently not trusting the help to do it.

When the second villain lies down for a siesta beneath the trailer, one of the least convincing deathtraps in movie history ensues. The water very slowly seeps beneath the trailer, the trailer very slowly begins to sink, and the villain patiently waits for the trailer to sink low enough to crush him, realizing his predicament only seconds before he expires.

Liston is strangely absent from the final scene, despite the big build-up of the Farmer’s growing friendship with Napier and his growing respect for truckers. Was the final scene filmed after Liston died, perhaps?

Upon their return to the Moonfire headquarters with the pilot and the capsule, the truckers are met by a mob of reporters and learn that the pilot was the mysterious Leslie Russell all along. Here, too, as at every other point of the movie, the truckers – for all their bravado, bluster, skills and charm — are dupes, pawns of larger forces in American society (big business, government, organized crime, the press), and essentially passive. They’re onlookers; all they can do is watch things unfold, shrug, and keep on driving. Egan and Napier will just have to take their chances on the road, as Marty Robbins reminds us in the reprise of the theme song as the credits roll. Small wonder the credits include this line: “The producer further wishes to thank the truckers of America for their limitless patience, flexibility and reliability.”

  • Anonymous

    While shooting in Tucson, ParkhurstBR/returned to LA to attend the birthBR/of his child. The crew and castBR/remained…the partying was FANTAS-BR/TIC for the next several days. SomeBR/of the narrative obscurity may beBR/attributable to this unplanned butBR/enjoyable hiatus. However, all as-BR/pects of the production were givenBR/serious and professional concern byBR/all involved.

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