a critiQal film review Action Jackson (1988)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Demoted for his actions against rich industrialist Peter Dellaplane's (Nelson) son 2 years ago, Sgt. Jericho "Action" Jackson (Weathers) is looking for a little payback. But, when Dellaplane sets him up for murder, Jackson is on the run - with drug-addicted singer Sydney (Vanity) in tow - until he can find a way to clear his name.

653 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 15s)

Ah, the 80’s – back when bad action movies were made nearly every day. Oh sure, that’s still happening. But the 80’s gave us such classic bad action movies like Bill Cosby’s Leonard: Part Six and…Action Jackson. Those cheesy flicks have somehow managed to stick in the viewer’s brain even decades after their release.

Okay, I grouped Action Jackson into that category, but honestly, I’d never actually sat down to watch it. I’d only heard about how ridiculous it was. So, when I spotted it available to watch instantly on NetFlix®, I couldn’t resist.

Carl Weathers, who spent most of the 80’s as Rocky pal Apollo Creed, takes the lead for the first time in Action Jackson. While he’s fun as a cop who doesn’t mind tossing rules out the window in order to get his guy, the film never actually takes advantage of his abilities that much. Heck, he was able to show more acting prowess in Predator (1987). Instead the film just puts him in situations that are just see-through action sequence set-ups.

Pitting Weathers against Craig T. Nelson (Coach (TV)) was just a plain old bad idea. Trying to apparently out-stare his opponents, the less-than-scary Nelson seems a bad choice for villain. And that’s even with the addition of his apparent side passions for martial arts and vindictiveness.

Sharon Stone does a good job in a too-brief role, leaving viewers wishing she could have swapped places with Vanity, the true co-star of the film. Viewers will find themselves often wondering – while suffering through Vanity’s less-than-spectacular performance – if Sharon could have saved the picture by playing the drug-addicted singer instead.

Most of the rest of the cast is more recognizable (and memorable) for their roles in other big-time action flicks of the 80’s. Bill Duke, Matt Landers, Charles Messhack, Bob Minor for Commando (1985); Bill Duke and Sonny Landham (and of course Carl Weathers) for Predator (1987); Robert Davi, Al Leong, Jack Thibeau for Lethal Weapon (1987) (with Davi also popping up in other Schwarzenegger flick Raw Deal (1986)); Dennis Hayden, Matt Landers, Al Leong, De’voreaux White for Die Hard (1988). Even Thomas H. Wilson (Biff Tannen from Back to the Future (1985))! And that’s just to name a few.

Action Jackson is a typical action flick. Over-the-top explosions and car crashes, a few supposedly witty one-liners, a villainous bad guy, and a pumped-up action star out to do some damage, who, coincidentally, gets the girl along the way. Unfortunately, very little thinking went into making this one an easy fit in the action genre of the 80’s. So the viewer gets one-liners that don’t even make sense. “Chill out” the hero shouts as he aims a flame at one bad guy. Now how exactly is the bad guy supposed to chill out when you’re covering him in fire? Geez…even Schwarzenegger’s constant cold references in Batman & Robin (1997) at least made sense, since he was playing Mr. Freeze.

When even the snappy one-liners don’t make sense, the viewer should be ready for the worst. After all, if the writers can’t even make these witticisms actually fit with the storyline, how good can the rest of the dialogue actually be?

Unfortunately, Carl Weathers’ try at leading man status with Action Jackson is a complete joke, despite Weathers best efforts. While he creates a likable action hero, the ridiculous villain (I’m sorry, but Coach (TV) could never provide sufficient villainy in this incarnation, even with his new-and-improved kung fu grip). Then there’s a just-plain-bad damsel in distress routine by Vanity, and some truly ill-fitting one-liners. Weathers just doesn’t have much to aid him on his way to leading man material.

Maybe if Sharon Stone had stuck around, she might have been able to move Action Jackson into the realm of bad-but-quickly-forgotten action flicks, instead of the laughingstock it still is today…and maybe a quick death for the film would have been better for all involved.

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