Review: Action Jackson

Directed By: Craig R. Baxley
Category: Badass Cinema

Action Jackson represents everything I love about badass cinema. 80's action cinema if you want to be precise. It's excess to the highest degree and exploitation at it's finest even down to the opening them song performed by The Pointer Sisters singing "He Turned Me Out". Shit gets blown up here like you wouldn't believe and there's so much overkill here that it's hard to believe that this wasn't a hit. Director Craig R. Baxley pulls out all the stops on this one and his talent as an action director and stunt coordinator is on full display here. I'll be honest. I think this guy directs films so much better than someone like say...........Richard Donner with the Lethal Weapon films. I love those films of course, but sometimes I just don't feel he was the best choice as a director for that series. Now Craig R. Baxley would have done wonders for that franchise. Or even a Die Hard sequel. You know what? They should just get this guy to direct every action movie. Him and Walter Hill. Yea, I've got a love for the guy, so what. I wish I knew why the guy isn't making big budget flicks anymore after a tremendous start with Action Jackson, I Come in Peace and Stone Cold. I don't know if it's by choice or what?

But anyway. Carl Weathers, in his first big budget starring role after supporting stints like in the Rocky films and Predator which came out just a year before, is a force to be reckoned with here. The dude is huge, imposing, menacing and charming all at once. The guy can kick the ass of every single dude in the room whether they have knives, guns or pool sticks, but he can also carry on a debate about law and politics because he's Action Jackson. And he's a total badass here. When his boss is yelling at him for tearing a suspects arm off, Jackson simply says "So, he had a spare." He may be a demoted Sargent, but he's also a Harvard grad which means he can speak eloquently while he pounds your ass till kingdom come. Action Jackson was filmed in Detroit, where the story takes place and has the same look and gritty atmosphere as Robocop, another film that takes place in Detroit that was released a year earlier. I say hire Craig R. Baxely and have him do the next Robocop. I'm just sayin'.

What's great about Action Jackson is that it's an awesome mish mash of talent from both Die Hard and Predator. From Predator you have Craig R. Baxley who was second unit director and stunt coordinator, Sonny Landham and Bill Duke. From Die Hard you have Robert Davi, 80's action film regular Al Leong and the bad guy who looks exactly like Huey Lewis. I'm still not convinced it's not him. That southern drawl can be learned.

Exploitation is really the first word that comes to mind when I think of this film. I can't imagine they were going for a serious tone with this one because it seems like it's played so tongue in cheek. If someone gets punched, they get punched and pushed against an electrical circuit so they catch on fire and get electrocuted. If someone gets shot, it's not enough to just shoot them. In Action Jackson they have to get shot with exploding grenade launchers out a 10 story window engulfed in flames as they fall onto a dining table at an outside restaurant where people are eating. That's how you kill someone. This film has so much overkill its just plain genius. Take for instance when the bad guy's henchman infiltrate a rich guy's boat and kill everyone on the boat by way of knife, bow and arrow or by breaking there neck. But when they get to the rich guy instead of just shooting, him or breaking his neck or whatever like everyone else on the boat, they feel the best thing to do is strap a bomb to his wrist and the boat explodes in a gigantic fireball. That's what makes great cinema!

You can tell they were just having fun here and not going for any kind of realism. Writer Robert Reneau has a penchant for the outrageous. The fact that he co-wrote Demolition Man says a lot. I mean, there's a scene where after Jackson chases a bad guy on foot while the guy is driving a cab. He's miraculously able to keep up with him for a good 2 blocks before he jumps on top of the cab's roof while in motion. In all honesty Jackson does admit that maybe it wasn't such a damn good idea after all. As it's hurling through traffic the driver slams on the brakes and Jackson goes flying a good ways down. He gets up and taunts the guy to run him over rather than shoot him by saying "Be a man, don't shoot me!". The driver obliges and Jackson runs towards the car and does an over the car flip. The driver is distracted for a second as he's watching this marvelous feat and when he turns his head back he's about to smash into a car so instead of turn the wheel he throws his hands up over his face like a girl and crashes into a car and then a building in total destruction. Awesome. And in the end when he has to get to the villain who's holed up in a second floor room in his mansion, he uses a Lamborghini instead of running, even though running probably would have gotten him up there much faster, because it looks so much cooler to drive a car through a house, up the stairs and into a bedroom before he kicks his ass. That's just how he rolls, Action Jackson style.

Carl Weathers plays Sargent Jericho "Action" Jackson, a Sargent recently demoted from Lieutenant. He's told by his boss that he has to attend a fundraiser in the honor of Peter Dellaplane, a car manufacturer in Detroit. You see, there's a history between these two guys. Jackson almost killed Dellaplanes psycho sexual son by ripping his arm off and sending him to a mental hospital. So there's some animosity there. In the meantime there are union bosses getting offed left and right and Jackson soon learns that it's all at the behest of Delleplane so that he can pull the strings in the union or something like that. Jackson hooks up with Delleplane's wife, here played by a young Sharon Stone who always seems to be naked for no reason, in trying to get to the truth but ultimately gets her killed and Delleplane pins her murder on him. So then he hooks up with Delleplane's mistress, here played by Vanity, who's less than eager to help unless she's getting a fix. Eventually she comes around and the two are on the run while trying to uncover the truth and get Delleplane outed.
It's all a lot of fun with enormous explosions, car chases, gun fights, fist fights, gymnastics, wise cracks, gratuitous nudity, kung fu, and a plethora of 80's action icons. The action, violence and mayhem here is full on gratuitous and over the top. Don't expect anything less.

Action Jackson was supposed to be the first of a planned series of films but because the first one didn't do as well as they had hoped at the box office, the series was scrapped. That is such a bummer too. I would have loved to have seen many, many more of these films. I don't know, the film is too awesome to just be left alone. The title alone begs awesome remake or something. Get Robert Rodriguez to do it, or better yet, George Tillman Jr. who did the pretty badass but hardly seen Faster with Dwayne Johnson and also get Johnson to star. That would be sweeeeeeet!!
An annoying fact about Action Jackson is that it's never been available on DVD in Widescreen, only Full Frame. I don't know why, it's just one of those things. And it's so annoying because i'm sorry, but you just can't crop Action Jackson. But wait! I recently caught Action Jackson on Netflix using there instant streaming and holy crap it was in Widescreen! It was like Christmas in July!! Why it's available in Widescreen on Netflix instant and not on DVD, I don't know. It boggles the mind.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review. Just saw the fick, I thought itwas brilliant but no one seems to agree yet you do, so thanks for that.