Monday, March 18, 2013

Action Jackson (1988)

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


A Heather O`Rourke Obsessed Lunatic said...

Francisco, i know this hasn`t got anything to do with "Action Jackson" as such, its just that thinking of this movie (which i`ve never actually seen by the way) always makes me feel sad because Craig T. Nelson played the dad in the first two Poltergeist movies and Heather O`Rourke died just 11 days before "Action Jackson's" release in North America, i think if i ever watched "Action Jackson" thinking about that sad co-incidence would always stop me from enjoying the movie.

Franco Macabro said...

Death is a part of life, we all go through it. I'd like to watch as many cool movies as I can before I go! I wouldnt want to miss Action Jackson! Recommend it, it's fun as hell.

A Heather O`Rourke Obsessed Lunatic said...

That is indeed the right attitude to have Francisco. Actually after reading your reveiw maybe the quality of the movie would overcome my feelings of sadness if i did watch it, i wonder if the entire movie is on YouTube ! ?.

jimmie t. murakami said...

Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, and Sonny Landham all appeared in "PREDATOR" a year before. For them "ACTION JACKSON" must have been like an un-official re-union movie.

steve prefontaine said...

Francisco, "Dark Angel/I Come In Peace" is a superb film and its freely available on YouTube.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Sharon Stone (as the bird was in 1976 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

Franco Macabro said...

A Heather O Rouike Obsessed Lunatic: I think you would enjoy it, shit blows up real good on that one, trust me!

Jimmie T: This is true, I mentioned something about it on the review but I was like "hey, there's the indian dude from Predator!"

Steve: Yeah, I want to re-watch it, if it never resurfaces on dvd or blue ray, I just might have to watch it on You Tube.

Jervaise: I know!

odenat said...

Thanks for bringing these cool movies to our attention. I really enjoy reading your blog.

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, this is a pretty cool flick but I wished they included more crazy action scenes. The cab scene is awesome, as is the bit where he drives the ferrari up a stair case. It needed more stuff like that.

The movie felt like it was moving in fits and starts and couldn't decide if it wanted to be Commando or something a bit smarter.

Also, you're right. It was quite a formulaic story. For me, it's a case of great concept, great lead, so-so execution.

Franco Macabro said...

@: Odenat, thanks! I know your one of the regulars visitors on here, so thanks for your support and comments.

@Jack: What about the guy that gets a bomb strapped to his hand and then he blows up with it! Or the whole thing with the flame throwers? Or the opening where they shoot that guy and he turns into a ball of flame? That was all pretty intense stuff! That scene with the Ferrari in the house...I was like what the hell! That was some cool stuff, and they actually pulled it off. There was some interesting editing work on this one, I mean, that whole scene with Craig T. Nelson doing Kung Fu was really well edited, because obviously Nelson is no Kung Fu master!

I think the action scenes in Action Jackson are so good that when they are not happening, you just immediately want more.

I don't think it wanted to be smarter because its a pretty simple movie, to me it felt more like a Lethal Weapon movie or something.

Anonymous said...

This film is fun to watch,it's a 80's blaxplotation flick.

Franco Macabro said...

True, it's like the blaxploitation flick was alive and kicking in the 80's! I loved it, Action Jackson can proudly stand next to Shaft and Superfly as the quintessential black action star. I would have loved a sequel!


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