Hands on a Hardbody: The Documentary (1997) Poster

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Eye-opening doc about a simple competition.
ElijahCSkuggs19 July 2008
If you've ever wondered what it's like to be in one of those contests where you have to keep one hand on a car for as long as possible, this movie will definitely fill you in on what will go down.

Like many other people, if I ever had the chance to participate in a contest like this, I'd probably jump at the chance. Well, after seeing this, maybe not. Depends how nice the car/truck is. Because after watching all the personalities fade away either physically or mentally, it's really an eye-opening experience, that no person should take lightly.

You've got people from all walks of life participating. From country bumpkin folk who just desperately want to win, to past winners, to Jesus-freaks who believe the power of the one above will push them to the ultimate goal, to even waitresses and ex-marines. All are entertaining in their own right, but a few select characters, like my favorite, the black dude, who should have taken up stand-up comedy as a means of living, rule the day.

Usually this appears to be some sort of fun, play around type contest, but the thing is, it's anything but. Backs, ankles, feet begin to hurt and eventually if you're up for over 30 hours or so, the mind begins to fade. You always knew that these types of things would occur, but to watch them is a totally different story. And I must admit, it's pretty damn funny. Watching one dude say he'll be here for a while, and then fast forward a couple hours and he appears to be on death's door.

Hands on a Hard Body, isn't a contest for body-builders (though they may do well, if their mind is strong), but for everyday, hard-working people who want to win their hand at a brand new truck and some well-deserved respect along the way.

If you're ever given the chance to enter one, research it a little bit because this movie definitely shows the viewer these contests aren't as easy as they appear.
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awesome - hysterical - hilarious!
typrat22 February 2006
i bought this DVD on impulse based on all the ravingly positive user comments at amazon.com. ever skeptical i figured nothing could be that funny, but it was under $10 and so i thought what the hell, something with so many raves has to be at least worth a smile right? wrong!! its hysterical, rolling on the floor laughing your ass off funny. rarely have i watched something that made me laugh and laugh and laugh so hard. a whole bunch of rednecks going through some insane communal sleep deprivation exercise. and what a bunch of characters! i swear they will live with me forever. the smiley-happy black dude, his shoes and his snicker bars - just classic. it also has an ending/climax that couldn't have been better if an Oscar winning scriptwriter created it. the video quality is something awful, but in this case content rules! you really have to see this movie...really!
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one of the year's 10 best
Joel I13 December 1999
I don't want to scare anyone away with the "D" word, so let's just say that this non-fiction gem is one of the year's best movies and worth begging your video store manager to stock. Using a no-frills action-and-interview technique, director S. R. Bindler follows the fate of 23 Texans who enter a bizarre annual promotional contest run by the local Nissan dealer. The contestants are to stand around a blue pickup truck, with one hand touching it at all times, and the last one left standing (70-80 hours later) wins the truck. Yes, I did say this was non-fiction! Fortunately for Bindler (or perhaps through his expert handling of them) the contestants turn out to be a colorful cross section, and you soon find yourself picking favorites and even rooting for them! The film manages as much suspense as any sporting event, with a lot more curiosity. Also, some profound themes start creeping in. This movie is sure to invite comparisons with those of Errol Morris, due to the eccentricity of its subject, and those who like Morris's work will surely like this. But Bindler deserves credit for forging his own less flashy style, and for giving us this one-of-a-kind, unforgettable experience.
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trite gushings regarding great film
bringoutyourdead29 January 2001
My reluctance to see this film in the theater was based solely on my friends' inability to describe what the film was about to my satisfaction.

"It's about this contest. These people put their hands on this truck, and the last one to remove their hands wins the truck. It's so good. I promise." Yeah, whatever.

My friends finally convinced me to go, and I was amazed. And very soon after that, I was the friend in the role of inarticulate defender, dragging anyone who would listen along with me for my second and third viewings.

My eloquence has not increased over the last two years, so I will simply say you will not be disappointed in watching Hands on a Hardbody. You may even be reminded how closely related we all are as human beings. You may also remember how dramatic and intriguing even the most seemingly uninteresting premises can be. And I defy you not to laugh out loud and/or get misty-eyed at some of the participants, not because they are presented as comic foils or ignorant east Texans, but because they are as human in their words and actions as you are likely to see in a film, documentary or otherwise.
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A funny visit to the extremes of the human condition
Ken Mayer15 November 2006
An unexpected look at an apparently simple contest. This movie has tension, humor, insight, and heart. For so many Americans the divide between making it and failing is a working car. In a small town we see what some people will do to win a fully-loaded new pick-up truck.

One person here commented that the film exploits the poor people in the contest. I disagree. The people are presented as rounded individuals and the film includes interviews with the main characters, showing their viewpoints and not in a condescending way. The audience will find them amusing, but the tension comes from taking the contest seriously, and therefore, we take the contestants seriously too. We laugh at the human condition.

It's a shame this DVD is out of print. We still need this film!
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The best sports movie of all time . . .
Ysman28 October 1999
Hollywood could not have made a thriller this compelling. This was the first "sports" movie I have ever seen where you couldn't predict the ending of the film after the first five minutes. I watched the film on video with about four others in my family. We were practically sitting on the edge of our seats near the end and we were all rooting for a different person. All of the characters were classic and the ending was perfection. This is truly a great film.
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You don't have to be from Texas - or even the US - to enjoy this
mctheimer18 March 2000
A number of the other reviews are from Texans who wonder if you have to be from Texas to appreciate this film. No, you don't! It's a fascinating slice of American life that I think is insightful to anyone. It would also be a great film for people from overseas to learn something about middle American culture.

This movie follows 20 people in their attempt to win a pickup truck. What I loved about this film is that (a) even that there's no action sequences with special effects, the film has a wonderful sense of tension and suspense, due largely to (b) the fact that the director doesn't just turn the camera on and expect magic to happen, but managed to interview a number of the contestants before hand and really get into their heads via some well done interviewing and editing. This film has some wonderful psychological portraits, which make the suspense heightened as you wait to see how the contestants hold up over the very long wait.

While I watched this, I was sort of reminded of the Dogma 95 resolution, to only use hand-held cameras and available situations, so that the story and the acting are what stand out, not "movie magic." By those standards, this film measures up quite well -- and it's not even fiction!
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Perkins is a genius, Bindler isn't
anisocoria27 November 2000
Benny Perkins, the man who won a truck before and comes back to try the contest a second time, is a genuine cowboy genius. His opinions on the contest and his philosophy of life are inspirational. Maybe the reason Benny's thoughts made it into the film is that he gave a sit-down interview. Most of the other interesting action of the film happens off-screen, because Bindler and the other film makers failed to capture it. They miss people cheating in the contest, they miss Benny deciding to drop out, they even miss the most vital moment of the contest, when the first runner-up takes their hand off the truck.

Bindler also uses choppy, melodramatic, and extremely repetitious editing techniques. While this is a great subject for a documentary, and there are many fascinating people, especially Perkins, in the contest, Bindler fails to make a film to do th
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You find truth in the strangest places
bongofish11 April 2000
I'm sure you've read enough of the other reviews to understand the story, so I won't go back over that. I simply wanted to add that this story is "deep". It is one of the most human and moving and exciting and funny documentaries I have ever seen. The movie in many ways transcends its limited scope and gives us glimpses into human nature that are truly universal. We see friendship, anger, sacrifice, jealousy, hope, pettiness, faith all arise from such a simple contest. The ending is so perfect that it'll bring a tear to your eye. To quote Benny, the sage of the film, "It's a human drama thing." Absolutely.
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Interesting look at human need and desperation
Agent109 May 2002
This is really a sad film, mainly for the desperate nature these people exhibit while trying to win a truck. The desperation and the desire is quite striking, considering how much these people endure. In the end, its more like a battle of wills, not only making a commentary on how possessive and materialistic we are, but what lengths we will go to due these tendencies.
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Find it and Enjoy it. It's real all the way through!
jiveandwail21 April 2011
would you like to make US$6k a day for 3 days? do you need to make US$6K a day for 3 days? 13 people say a definite YES to the first question, and I'm guessing 2/3 of those qualify for a YES on the second (me 2 for what it's worth!).

these are real southern people in the real America, and this film shows they have some real heart and dreams, and compassion as well.

i saw it in the theater in Atlanta in '97, and just found it on the Internet and watched it again tonight.

as good as I remember, maybe better. i am going to twist some arms of non-Americans here in Brasil to watch and enjoy this movie, because it has heart and is universal.

Find it and Enjoy it!
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A must-see when it comes out on video.
yrral-323 March 1999
Like most documentaries, "Hands on a Hardbody" will never play in most cities. My wife and I saw it in New York, in a nearly full theater, and the movie was an enormous hit with that audience. Too bad it won't get wider distribution. Documentaries also face obstacles to wide video distribution. So when it's about to be released on video, make sure you pressure your local video store to stock it. It's a wildly funny, yet sympathetic look at the 24 contestants in a Texas Nissan dealership's promotion in which the last person to keep a hand on a hardbody truck gets to keep it. The previous winner, who is interviewed for the movie (and is a contestant once more, much to the resentment of others), lasted more than 80 hours. When only a few are left and someone else drops out, he says it is an "exhilarating" feeling, one he can only compare to killing his first deer. He acts as though this simple endurance contest is the Super Bowl, saying, "If you can't play with the big dogs, get up on the porch with the puppies." Obviously, he's the villain of the piece. Everybody else is appealing in his or her own way. There are many memorable characters. Like the toothless guy who helped his toothless wife prepare for the contest by shutting off the air-conditioning in the house. He's got a 20-ton unit, big enough to cool a Kmart, he says. It can cool the house to 12-below-zero! As the credits rolled, my wife said, "That's the funniest movie I've ever seen."
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Find documentaries boring? This is a rare exception.
sonicxpoint125 April 2013
Hands On A Hard Body is a documentary about a contest where a handful of people compete to win a truck by standing for as long as they can. They must have at least one hand one the truck at all times and are not allowed to lean or bend over. The last one left after all others have given up wins the truck. These contests can last for several hours, some even going for days, and are one of the greatest tests of someone's patience, endurance, and willpower.

To be honest, I didn't expect much going into Hands On A Hard Body; in fact I expected to be bored out of my mind. As the film opened and the first few shots came across the screen I was fully prepared for a potentially mind-numbing 98 minutes. What I didn't prepare for was that I might have a great time watching it. As the film rolled on and I started to learn about the contestants I was surprised to see that I was actually rooting for some of them, and then I realized something I could have never prepared myself for: I was actually enjoying the movie.

I'm not usually a fan of documentaries because they depict real-world events and, to be completely honest, I don't enjoy reality. I like watching movies with original stories because I am given the opportunity to escape the dullness of everyday life and be taken to another, more exciting world. I especially enjoy a movie with an engaging story that absorbs me into its world and lets me get to know the characters because their struggles become my own, taking me away from my boring reality and drawing me into a more interesting one. Because documentaries are a depiction of reality I prefer to avoid them and watch the latest blockbuster instead.

Hands On A Hard Body, however, is a rare documentary. From when the first contestants started dropping out to when the final few were fighting with all of their might I was on the edge of my seat, as if I were watching a blockbuster rather than a documentary. You got to know each contestant, decide which ones you liked or disliked, and then rooted for the ones that won you over, sharing in their struggles as you saw them strive and suffer to win that truck. There was one contestant in particular that I really identified with. As the film went on I was so absorbed into the story that I wanted to see this contestant win more than anything but was ultimately disappointed when they were not victorious. However, despite their loss I enjoyed every minute I spent with them.

I wish there were more documentaries like Hands On A Hard Body, but not just because I want to be entertained; I want to be reminded that life is not always as dull as I think it is. Hands On A Hard Body showed me that there are moments when life is free of all stress and responsibilities, feeling less like a documentary and more like a summer blockbuster.
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Great Plot
AMSharpless9 January 2013
I originally saw this movie in Austin and almost fell out of my seat on several occasions from laughing so hard. Truly Texas. You can't miss this one! I was so surprised when I watched this movie. It has a great plot and the end is a real surprise. The human emotion and drama that unfolds as these contestants try and win a pickup truck is unbelievable not to mention hilarious. "Cars don't make money, Trucks make money." I believe that this film very much shows how good documentaries are made. Even though the filmmakers don't interfere so much in the film it is still interesting. Others film made in this style tend to be really boring - This is an incredible slice of Americana. Invaluable to anyone interested in East Texas culture and the diversity of peoples in this country. A masterpiece in its genre.
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An often hilarious and engrossing look at a contest to win a truck.
Cutter30 March 1999
A great real-life slice of American color. Similar in tone to the early Errol Morris works "Vernon, Florida" and "Gates , H an engrossing and often hilarious look at a group of Texas stalwarts who enter into a contest to win a pick-up truck. The rules state they must keep one hand on the truck at all times. The last one standing is the winner of the truck. By film's end, you don't want anyone characters that only real life has to offer. I saw this film at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award, and enjoyed it so much I took friends to see the additional screenings. Its low budget is evident but when a tale is worth telling, who cares?
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Excellent! The subjects are more genuine than any actor!
seren-413 January 1999
This is a great movie that unfortunately qualifies as a documentary and thus will not get the huge viewing audience that it deserves. This movie doesn't try to push a moral angle on the audience and is hilarious without making fun of the participants. The only thing I wonder is, will non-Texans be as enthralled with it as I am. I truly believe so.
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The non-documentary documentary
Ralphie-320 November 1998
What I like about it is that the audience is genuinely in suspense over who will eventually win and that result is unscripted. A Hollywood script-maker would have undoubtedly had the fervently religious woman fall out early or had the veteran face off with the marine in the end, using who'd they'd expect we'd root for rather than who in reality really wins. Likeable real-life characters (including a woman with no front teeth and more spirit than any fictional film character in years) make this worth watching.

If you hate documentaries give this one a chance--you'll be sucked in from the beginning and laughing to the end.

I gave the film a "9" instead of a ten because I felt the ending was too prolonged after the climax of the final winner.

Otherwise, it is a FANTASTIC film experience.
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Marc-8631 January 2000
All I have to say is, "Go, Baby, Go!" Or perhaps, "Go, Baby, Go See It!" What a phenomenal piece of Americana...or should I say Texicana? I wonder how well it plays outside of Texas, seeing that the profound Texan love of trucks is an impossible to describe phenomenon. I grew up in East Texas and I felt like they were interviewing people I've met many times before. Absolutely hilarious.
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Great film
Jesse-159 November 1998
S.R. Bindler's Hands on a Hardbody is the best "truth is stranger than fiction" documentaries I've ever seen. It's subjects are all vying to take home a new Nissan Hardbody truck by keeping one hand on it at all times (except for 5 minute breaks every hour and a 15 minute break every 6 hours). On top of that, no squatting or even leaning is allowed. Obviously you've got to be a little insane to participate in something like this and the 24 contestants from Longview, TX could certainly be described as such. In the course of the film, we get to know a little about these people who, despite their oddities, are generally quite likable.

All-in-all, if you can find a way to see this movie, do.
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Nice doc about crazy event
plutenko15 August 2004
I saw this film at a film festival and thought about the event and people portrayed in it. These people who compete in the truck give-away are a sad bunch. They are willing to subject their bodies to an inhuman hardship just to be able to get a truck. Bit they already have cars, so what's up with that. Is it that area of East Texas that breeds these poor dumb son-of-a-bitches to lay down their health to maybe get a new truck? On top of that, some of them seem to have been in training for this. Some of them are religious fanatics, born again Christians: is this what Jesus would have done? To stand in heat for days to be able to acquire an earthly possession. This is a weird look into a weird group of rural Americans - somewhat exploitative of them.
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Makes me glad that I'm not them
beesama100010 April 2005
Wow. It's so crazy what you can make people do for such small sums of money. It almost makes me want to take a trip to Texas with a pocket full of 20s, just to see what I can get those hicks to do. Almost.

I still don't know which is funnier: The toothless hick couple with a '20-ton' AC unit, the woman who couldn't possibly afford payments on a measly $15k truck, or the retard who showed up to the contest wearing boots.

In the end though, the film really REALLY made me feel glad that I'm not them. I will wake up tomorrow, and everyday for the rest of my life, thanking my lucky stars that I'm not an inbred hick, living in some crap hole in the middle of Podunk, Texas.
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Insightful study in human behavior
tgladek5 June 2004
Although the film is a bit slow at first it does grab you, a bit like a serial show, and you just have to sit it out until the end. I remember when this was released and heard from several friends, originally from this area, that it was a must-see- movie. I'm not a "car person", so I wasn't very enthusiastic about seeing it. Then, I couldn't find it anywhere. Well, it's so much more about people and their little quirks, paranoia and drive that it is about cars or a contest to win a truck. Everyone is motivated by circumstance and desire.

This fun and novel contest showcases human behavior and motivation - they

are the stars of this documentary that ultimately celebrates the sheer peculiarity of the unwashed-Texas-public.
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I absolutely loved it!
honey-87 March 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I went and watched this movie last night with no expectations whatsoever and came out of the theater loving it. I was enthralled with this film from the beginning to the end and never once lost interest. I heard about this film from a director who raved about it at the Texas Film Festival (Texas A&M University).

I loved the people in HOAHB because their personalities were so distinct and so real that they came across as unique characters. I come from a small town in Texas and I swear that I know a person that is like each and every one of those people in the contest. You have the woman with no teeth who would be like the woman in my town that would cause trouble at our high school for absolutely no reason at all. You have the winner who's so much like a good ol' boy that it's funny. You have the young man in the Bug who has dreams of pursuing a career in Hollywood as a stuntman. I guess because I could relate to the film it was that much more entertaining especially because I could pinpoint people in my town that are so much like the people in the film.

I think anyone watching this film will be thoroughly entertained regardless if they're from Texas or not. I loved this film and will be recommending it to all my friends!!!
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never knew it had a documentary...
NatalieLandry13 December 2002
I used to pass by there like everyday peaking over to see what was going on and wished I had enough time to see the HOHB. I from Longview and didn't think that Longview would get this kind of recognition...I'm proud of Longview...lol. Since everyone has such great reviews, I'm gonna make time to go and see it in person the next time. Go Longview!!!
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Laughter and Tears
David-3298 September 1999
I have never laughed so hard while watching a film or cried while watching a film...before seeing Hands on a Hardbody. Maybe it's just a Southern thing, but this was great film. It does for the pickup truck what the Bicycle Thief did for bicycles.
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