Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked :Maximum Overdrive.”
The Movie: “Maximum Overdrive”
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington
Director: Stephen King
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A group of people try to survive when machines start to come alive and become homicidal.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 15 percent
Froemming: This week for the JOE-DOWN, I want to ask Brown a question: You wanna rock and roll with me, pussbag?
That line, along with “move outta the way, you happy asshole” are both hilarious and in this week’s pick: “Maximum Overdrive,” a movie so coked-out and crazy, the director (Stephen King) allegedly does not recall much of making it.
Because of how much coke he was consuming.
The story behind that is crazy and our friends at Cast That Movie go in-depth on that, so check that out to hear that insane tale of the making of this movie.
So, you know, coked-out Stephen King + Emilio Estevez + the 1980s + AC/DC + machines coming alive and killing people by shooting cans of soda at their head = A Perfect JOE-DOWN.
Brown, as the world in this movie is going tits up, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: My first thought is that we should go back and look at the opening credits to see if cocaine has a writing credit. Hell, after this movie, cocaine should have a SAG card, if it doesn’t already.
I had heard of “Maximum Overdrive” from the Nostalgia Critic’s review of it, so I was aware of some of the more insane points of the flick. But to see it all meshed together in 90-plus minutes was a completely different experience than getting the choice cuts.
I mean, shit, we get a killer pop machine in this 90-minute D.A.R.E ad of a movie.
So Froemming, get us started while I tape an ungodly amount of porn onto an office wall at (REDACTED) work like they do at the Dixie Boy.
Froemming: I’ll have to do a site visit to Willmar to see that.
So, earth is caught in the tail of a comet, which plunges our world into chaos and violence. This makes me wonder if the past four years we were in one of these things.
Anywho, after getting a weird title card telling us this information about some dumb comet, we get a pretty solid intro to what we can expect: A cameo from King himself (90 percent of his blood is cocaine here I believe) as he tries to use an ATM. We see the electronic greeting sign of the bank spell out “(REDACTED) You” and the ATM calls Stephen King an asshole, which I would like to do as well.
Brown: All in all, I think that bank still has better customer service than Wells Fargo. Low-hanging fruit, I know.
So apparently technology is acting all wonky around this North Carolina town, which we should point out, it’s stunning that this movie doesn’t take place in Maine.
Our next scene is watching a drawbridge have a life of its own and start raising without alerting oncoming traffic. And it confused me that through this whole ordeal, no one honked their horn to alert the booth that the bridge was going up? The only time we see a reaction from the workers is after the fact.
There’s a few funny clips of random car damage like it’s a “Blues Brothers” movie. There’s also a guy that falls through the bridge that screams like a Tusken raider. But the most baffling part is seeing a load of watermelons break through a windshield and almost causing blunt-force trauma to future ex-wife of Donald Trump, Marla Maples.
… Yep, Tiffany Trump’s mom is in this cocaine trip.
Froemming: Like Donald, I prefer to ignore the existence of Tiffany Trump.
Also, there is a sweet, sweet ride on this bridge: A black van with the AC/DC logo on it. If I ever retire, I want to travel the country in that van.
Brown: Quick aside: What’s your preferred AC/DC: Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?
Froemming: Axl Rose.
Brown: You’re an asshole.
Froemming: Anyway, we start seeing machines coming to life. Which raises the biggest question I have about the logic of this major studio financed coke binge: Why do some machines come to life and others do not? Why are they safe at the end on a boat, when we see a plane crashed into a school bus at one point? How do these machines fire guns? Those are not like electronic doodads and vehicles?
Brown: I think the explanation for the boat was that it was a sailboat. But, those usually do have motors somewhere since you know, wind is unpredictable. But I wrote in my notes about a half-dozen times asking the same thing. Taking over computer chips, like the ATM and the light board at the bank, makes way more sense to me than taking over combustion engines like this movie does.
So, now we head to the Dixie Boy diner, where Bill Robinson is a short order cook working for a scumbag boss who threatens him with a parole violation if he does not give him free hours of work in his shift.
Wow, I feel like that is something our former president would pull.
We also see a truck with the Green Goblin’s head as the front of it pulls in to get gassed up. This movie is the best on-screen adaptation of this Marvel villain ever. Green Goblin is great in this movie.
Brown: HOW DARE you belittle Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin.
Froemming: This is the BEST Green Goblin adaptation ever. PERIOD!
We see things are going a bit off, as a waitress is attacked by an electric knife much like the time a Krusty doll attacked Homer Simpson and we found out the toaster has been laughing at him as well.
Brown: I feel like Wanda (the waitress) getting sliced by the knife was only a matter of time. She didn’t even know how to properly fry eggs. It’s not hard.
We also see another station worker, Duncan, getting blinded when a pump shoots gasoline into his eyes.
Froemming: Of all the times people are hilariously (not sure if it was intended to be hilarious) by machines, this was the only one I was like “yikes” with.
Brown: And we have a man killed in the arcade by *checks notes* getting electrocuted after touching a wooden part of an arcade cabinet…
Froemming: Not just any man, that was Gus Fring!
Brown: Oh shit! I didn’t notice that.
There’s also a little league gaming going on where, afterwards, the coach offers to get the kids some soda. Only, after he puts his quarters in, he’s pelted to death by high-speed cans of cola. Hell, even the kids are getting pelted with the cans, which was the hardest I’ve laughed in a long time. Eventually, a steamroller runs over a kid, which was the second most upsetting thing in this scene next to the (REDACTED) confederate flags on the LITTLE LEAGUE SCOREBOARD.
Froemming: Not going to lie, even the kid getting run over by the steamroller was hilarious to me. Again, not sure if King was going for “scary” and “upsetting” here, but it ended up being one of the more hilarious moments of 80s cinema. Second probably to the Old 96er.
Brown: There is no way this movie was ever meant to be taken seriously. And after seeing the whole thing, I completely agree with the Nostalgia Critic’s idea that this is Stephen King’s attempt at a B-movie.
Froemming: B-movies typically are not this expensive to make. Also, let us not forget:
Brown: You’re right about the budget for B-movies. But, when has that stopped certain directors from wanting to make B-movie style movies with a budget?
Froemming: Because when the director does not remember making a movie because he was so coked up, I have a hard time finding justification for a “vision.”
Brown: Anyways, there’s only one survivor of the Little League Massacre, Deke, who happens to be the son of our blind gas pumper. He’s also getting stalked by *checks notes* garden sprinklers.
This movie is a cry for help via intervention.
Froemming: Hey, Duncan can kinda see. Sort of. I mean, he blindly is crushed to death because his vision is impared, but he is not blind-blind. Unlike King, we can safely assume he is not snowblind.
Now let’s talk about our problematic bible salesman, Camp Loman, who has picked up a hitchhiker and goes all Harvey Weinstein on her with the groping.
Brown: Hey man, it is a Stephen King adaptation. Just because we’re not in Maine doesn’t mean we won’t use the other King tropes, like evil religious fundamentalists.
Froemming: Evil religious fundamentalists who get called “a happy asshole” has to be a new one, right?
Brown: For the ‘80s, perhaps.
And yeah, seeing our bible salesman get all gropey and giving our hitchhiker, Brett, her #MeToo moment was… not great. Kudos to her, though, Brett shuts that shit down pretty quickly.
Let’s not forget two other players in this web King is weaving in newlyweds Curt and Connie.
Connie is played by Yeardley Smith, who famously voices the Lizard Queen herself, Lisa Simpson.
Froemming: Brown, how disgusted were you when Curt asked to watch Connie go to the bathroom? I did not remember that line, and was grossed out by the R. Kelly vibe of that.
Brown: Yeah, I’ve never understood, and refuse to understand, how watching one expel bodily waste is sexy. I also say this hoping that phrasing makes it even less sexy to someone.
So after seeing a dead body, Curt goes to investigate, only to be stalked by a nearby tow truck. After surviving that ordeal, the truck tries to run the couple off the road in what I can only assume is Exhibit A in Steven Spielberg’s civil suit against King for ripping off “Duel.”
I did laugh when we see the tow truck fly off the road. It was on fire even before it went airborne. Do cars catch fire the moment the vehicle stops hitting pavement? I’m not a car savvy guy, but I feel that’s a bit inaccurate.
Anyways, they also join our collection of white folks that are at a gas station owned by a man that would absolutely have a Confederate flag over a window at his house because he’s too cheap to buy curtains.
Froemming: Meanwhile, Deke bikes to his neighborhood (I assume) where we see a bloody lawnmower leering at the kid. We see dead people everywhere and, most upsetting, a dead dog with a toy car lodged in its mouth.
Brown: Not just a toy car, but a toy cop car. #DefundThePolice
Froemming: I sorta wish John Wick existed in this universe, these dumb machines wouldn’t stand a chance after what happened to that pooch.
Deke is also being trailed by an ice cream truck and this was when it hit me that this movie probably inspired the video game “Twisted Metal.”
Brown: This ice cream truck and the one from “Twisted Metal” are only the second and third most evil ice cream trucks.
There’s also at least one person dead and bloodied via their Sony Walkman? I feel like that’s what Tipper Gore thought would happen if kids kept listening to Prince and Judas Priest albums when she formed the PMRC.
Froemming: The only explanation we get on what comes to life and what doesn’t is a brief news announcement on a car radio saying something about only some things come to life. This is some of the laziest writing ever, which makes no sense because how lazy can one be when they have consumed George Jung levels of blow into their system?
Brown: The rest of this movie is just this weird mash-up of scenes. Like, the owner of the Dixie Boy, Bubba, has a militia-level amount of weapons in the basement and he blows up a couple semis. The bible salesman gets hit by a garbage truck. There’s a late-night rescue where Billy and Curt find Deke. And, Billy and Brett hook up, leading to one of the weirder lines I’ve heard in a movie when Brett says Billy “makes love like a hero.”
Froemming: Weirder than Camp Loman telling a semi “you wanna rock and roll with me, pussbag?” or Bill immediately after calling Loman a “happy asshole?”
Brown: THIS is the best line read in the movie.
That is Tommy Wiseau levels of acting.
Froemming: They had to shoehorn in a “who made who” reference with all the AC/DC music in this movie. Also, the throwaway lines in this movie are fantastic.
So, after these somewhat disjointed scenes, and with Deke saved by leaving a seriously injured Loman to die alone in a ditch even though the crew were out to save the poor son-of-a-bitch, we get to one of the weirder moments of the movie: A military truck with a machine gun kills 3/4ths of the cast, then starts communicating via morse code. Which Deke knows because he has a merit badge in old-timey communication?
Not since Michael Bluth thought he could be a lawyer because he played one in a Peter Pan-inspired grade-school-play have I been this unconvinced of a character’s abilities.
Brown: Going back to seeing a nearly-dead Loman, here’s another point I have about this being a B-movie instead of going for any type of horror: it’s hard to build suspense and horror when you have AC/DC doing your soundtrack.
On the whole, I love this soundtrack, because, well, it’s an AC/DC greatest hits album as of 1986. As great and fun as AC/DC is, there isn’t exactly elements of suspense in their music. I mean, this is a band whose popularity was built on songs about jailbreaks, shaking people all night long and (REDACTING) fat women.
Now, when the gun truck comes to the gas station, I have a question: how did the gun get loaded? I don’t imagine those things are sitting in an Army or National Guard lot fully loaded.
Froemming: Of course they were. This was Ronald Reagan’s America. A time when the right fell hard for a goofy, mentally unstable celebrity. Completely different than today. We grew and learned as a culture and society.
So the thing starts beeping in morse code and Deke translates it. The trucks need gas, which is like their food or something. And, frankly, I do not understand why they decided to gas these homicidal machines up. Let their gas run out, let the gun-truck use up all its bullets, and you are free. Hell, one of the characters says this!
Brown: Then, when they start fueling up the trucks, the cast acts as though they’re on par with Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ” with the physical toll of *checks notes* filling semis up with gas…
Froemming: I know my arm goes numb from the two seconds it takes to pop the nozzle into the tank and clip the handle to keep gassing up so I don’t have to hold it like some chucklehead.
Brown: I’ll give them that yes, it would suck being outside in 100-degree heat. As for your blistered hands and what-not… you could have worn work gloves? Or, used a rag on the nozzle to protect your hands? That’s on you, Emilio Estevez and co. Don’t act as though you’re going through biblical levels of suffering.
Deciding to go with Billy’s plan to hop on a boat and go to a nearby island where technology is apparently banned — what kind of “Robinson Crusoe” bullshit are they pulling here? — the group plans an escape. They do this via sewer pipe that King must have stolen from “The Shawshank Redemption” (the basis of which was written in 1982, four years before this movie).
Froemming: This is based off his 1973 short story “Trucks.”
Brown: You’re right, but I feel Stephen King, the coked-up director, pulled the idea from “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.”
Also, I wish Emilio Estevez would have come out of the pipe like this.
Froemming: The Green Goblin follows them to the marina, where there are plenty of non-sailboats that should come alive here, but do not because the aliens with this comet fear water or something. And it takes out one last sucker before Emilio blasts it to kingdom come with a grenade launcher.
Best adaptation of Green Goblin ever!
Brown: Question: How does a semi truck sneak up on someone. Like, I get Andy Bernard sneaking up on Dwight Schrute with a quiet hybrid engine. But the Green Goblin truck literally sneaks up on the group at the harbor.
Brown: With the evil truck neutralized, the group gets on a boat to ride out the comet like Gilligan and the Skipper. And because, I assume, King was coming down, the movie just ends with texts saying that a Russian satellite blew up an incoming UFO and life went back to normal after the comet flew away.
So… the Soviet Union are the heroes here? What the (REDACTED) is going on here?
Brown, let’s take this sailship down to recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Yeah, it is a bonkers movie.
Brown: If you appreciate B-movies, yeah, I’d recommend it. It’s the good type of bad movie.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: