Title: Action Jackson (1988)
Director: Craig R. Baxley
Cast: Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, Vanity, Sharon Stone
Every time I watch an action movie from the 80’s it just dawns on me how different they were from what passes for an action film today. Read my review for A Good Day To Die Hard (2013), and you’ll see what I mean, today’s action films are so soft, so tame when compared to the action films of the 80’s which were so violent and so explosive! These films had no CGI explosions; I’m talking real fire and brimstone here, so hot you can almost feel the heat coming from that screen. Action Jackson was the return of the black leading action star, something that had been sorely missing from American theater screens back in the 80’s when the blaxploitation films of the 70’s had completely disappeared. Yeah, there were black action stars, Eddie Murphy in the Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours movies and Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon series, but in these movies we always had the black guy teaming up with a white guy, this is not so with Action Jackson. In Action Jackson we had Carl Weathers playing the leading role all by his lonesome, he wasn’t playing second banana to anyone, here he was the star of the show, and boy what a show! This movie was pure black dynamite!
Never mess with a man holding a flamethrower!
I was wondering why Action Jackson was such an explosive film, then I realized it was directed by a guy called Craig R. Baxley, the director behind Stone Cold (1991), another explosive (and extremely fun) action flick from the 90’s that had a very 80’s sensibility to it. You watch that film and you feel it could have come straight out of the 80’s because it was all about explosions, guns and cleavage. Why were Craig R. Baxley’s films so action packed? Well, the answer is simple; the guy was a stunt coordinator before he turned into a director. He did the stunts for many films and television shows before he ended up behind the cameras to direct Action Jackson and Stone Cold, his two most recognized films. He also directed an obscure film that mixed sci-fi and action called I Come In Peace (1990). That film starred Dolph Lundgren playing a cop who’s chasing an alien that’s committing a series of murders across the city. I’d love to get my hands on that one; I haven’t seen it in years! Point is, Baxley is a director who understands action because of his extensive experience as a stunt coordinator, and he brought that experience to Action Jackson, making sure that this was one explosive, ‘balls to the wall’ action film.
Director Craig R. Baxley
How action packed was this movie? Well, this is just an example: Jackson is chasing a villain who’s driving a taxi, so Jackson starts running after the taxi! The guy runs pretty fast because the taxi is going at full speed, and he’s keeping up with it perfectly fine! Then, Jackson leaps into the air and falls on the cars roof, as Jackson is doing this, a truck filled with gas tanks just happens to pass by and it crashes with another car, a huge explosion ensues, but this is just background noise, the focus of the scene is Jackson, holding on to his life on top of this taxi! The villain driving the taxi starts shooting his gun through the roof of the car trying to hit Jackson, who is still dangling from the roof of the taxi! Then, Jackson, while still holding on to the roof, smashes the windshield of the car with his bare fists and knocks out the bad guy! I mean, this scene is actually more action packed then I’m describing it, you have to see it to believe it. I mean, this is a movie that starts out with a body being hurled out of a window, as it bursts into flames! But basically, this movie is all about exaggerated 80’s style action; the kind that feels excessive but is also excessively fun.
Action Jackson is not what I’d call an original film, in fact, its plot is quite formulaic, this is the kind of action film that uses its plot as an excuse for the crazy action antics, and that’s just fine by me really. With this kind of film, exposition is just something that happens to get me to the next big action number. The plot is all about a car manufacturer played by the one and only Craig T. Nelson, who starts killing off members of the workers union so he can gain political power. It’s up to Jackson to stop him. Jackson plays the hard to control cop who gets just a little too crazy with the villains. In fact, last mission he was involved in he almost ripped the arm off a sexual predator! When he introduces himself, he tells people that some people like to call him ‘Action’ as in Action Jackson! So Action Jackson is not just a clever title for the film, that’s actually his nickname in the movie! Jackson plays that atypical cop who gets the job done, but destroys half of the city while doing it. You know the type, he’s the kind of cop who gets the police chief all angry and worked up, screaming “Jaaaacksoooooon!” Which is really a cliché of action films, the angry, overstressed police chief; kind of like Mel Gibson and Danny Glover got their police chief all angry in the Lethal Weapon movies. At the same time, Jackson is one smooth dude with the ladies, he’s apparently had some sort of fling with the character that Sharon Stone plays and he’s also having an affair with the villains mistress! In this movie we have a twisted love foursome thing going on! Everybody is screwing everybodies wives and mistresses!
Same as Stone Cold, there’s tons of nudity on this one. All of it coming from the two main ladies of the flick: Sharon Stone and Vanity. Vanity was all sorts of things, a singer, songwriter, model, dancer and yes, actress. You might also remember her from a Kung Fu flick called The Last Dragon (1985). She had a singing career and even a couple of hits like the 80’s tune “Nasty Girl”. She plays the villains mistress, whom he keeps next to him by keeping her addicted to heroin! But yeah, this is that kind of a sleazy action film aimed at guys, so of course, there’s tons of T & A. This sort of thing is practically unseen in today’s action films (and films in general I might add) so it might come as a bit of a shock just how much nudity is on this one. Sharon Stone looks extremely sexy, but she’s not in the film as much.
Craig T. Nelson plays the lead villain, normally he plays a family man (like in the Poltergeist movies) but here he's this villain who wants political power, he’s even an expert on Kung Fu if you can believe! Ever wondered what Craig T. Nelson would look like kicking some Chinese dudes ass with Kung Fu? Look no further! Also starring in this film are a bunch of actors you’ve seen in films like The Goonies (1985), Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and Predator (1987), you know, not famous actors, but recognizable, practically every bad guy or hoodlum is played by some actor you’ve probably seen in some other movie from the 80’s.
This film was produced by famous action film producer Joel Silver, and for him and everyone involved, Action Jackson actually made a profit, it cost 7 million to make, and made 20 million, which is actually more than double its budget! Unfortunately, this did not translate to sequels or a franchise. Too bad because this was a fun action movie that was so over the top that it’s fun just for that; it also has some great 80’s style one liners, my favorite one has Action Jackson about to burn some bad guy to a crisp with a flamethrower, so he asks the guy “How do you like your ribs?” before turning him into a ball of flame! Now that I think about it, Action Jackson is a pretty violent movie; Jackson resolves everything in extremely violent ways, I mean, this is a guy who has no problems with blowing some bad guy away. Well, let me put it this way, this is not the kind of movie where the main villain kills himself by falling off a building. But then again, Jackson’s being attacked by dudes with freaking flame throwers! What’s a guy to do? Recommend it if you want a heavy dose of 80’s explosive fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5