For a long time now I have had an obsession with this film. I have to admit I was initially intrigued by a film actually starring Carl Weathers and curious about the acting abilities of failed pop star Vanity and Craig T. Nelson cast as a bad guy. It was to put it simply curiosity to find out what on earth was it all about, especially considering the casting anomalies (I am obviously being too kind toward the casting director when I say this). This of course led to actually having to sit through it. Now my obsession is with going to GREAT lengths to pick apart and deride just how bad this blivit of an action yarn is. Behold the years long culmination of this effort forthwith:
Now that that is out of the way, where to begin? I'll tell you- THE FUCKING TRAILER. Now to be fair the trailer here is the Lorimar Home Video trailer but based on what I know about this movie as a whole it is probably the same odd minute and something moviegoers had to sit through in theaters. Observe:
Where to begin with this even!?! The first line says much: "There's been a lot of talk about Sergeant Jerhico Jackson, FORGET EVERYTHING YOU'VE HEARD". Fuckin A, the entire marketing campaign for this movie (you will see further evidence of this shortly) is a fucking double entendre for how much the film is going to suck. Let us continue with further evidence: "Because action speaks louder than words". Vanity even manages to put this movie in its place before you even watch it by simply saying two words: "Some action"! And at the end we have another voice over proclaiming "Action is on the way" and a scene from the film with a cop proclaiming "mark it on your calendar, that day is comin'".
What is wrong here you ask? A LOT. The trailer leads you to believe this is a super action packed cop movie. There's explosions, a car chase, attractive women, people flying out windows, people jumping out windows, face punching, making out, more explosions, gun fire, and flat footed wet fart attempts at tough guy humor. There's even some super arpeggio laden action music replete with orchestra hits. An arpeggio is useful to accentuate action in the 80's, but it does not MAKE ACTION OCCUR. Thanks for the illusion fellas. Actions are taken place by Carl Weathers yes, but this does not make an action movie good as you will see (or won't if you are as smart as I think). The quick eyed viewer will notice Bill Duke and Sonny Landham who both appeared in Predator with Mr. Weathers and also the dude who played Biff in Back To The Future.
And while I'm at it, what's with the cheesy computer drawing of Carl Weathers' face? What the fuck is this, the video for the song Breakdance by Irene Cara?
But back to the trailer, "Mark it on your calendar", you fucking got that right. Just take a look at the video box art at the beginning of the review. Some dipshit at the Atlanta Journal/Constitution labeled it "This year's Lethal Weapon". Really? REALLY? Talk about premature judgements. I want to find whoever wrote this and hand them a roll of toilet paper and tell them you're supposed to wipe shit instead of write it. Action Jackson was released February 12th 1988, here is what came out months later: Rambo III (aka the king shit of 80's action trash at its absolute best)- May 25th, Die Hard- July 15th, and They Live- November 4th. What do these three movies have in common? The first five minutes of each of these is better than the entirety of Action Jackson. That cop was right, mark your calendar- better movies were going to come out a little while later. Now to be fair it is TECHNICALLY an action movie based upon the formula presented by the trailer- however the way the formula is presented on celluloid is dull, predictable, and like Bob Dole, flacid.
And I nearly forgot the final warning a potential moviegoer had before entering into a theater showing this: the poster. It has the audacious headline of Its Time For "Action". Yes that's right, the word action is actually in quotes. To me this translates to the action of turning around and going home. Look:
What's the deal with this poster? The graphic design is not particularly gripping or even vaguely interesting/exciting. It appears the graphic designer was bored/out to lunch/blind and/or not being paid enough to do something compelling here. Carl Weathers is dressed in a tuxedo to give some sort of James Bond kind of flair. Unless I'm mistaken he's a god damn cop not a secret agent. He only wears a tuxedo for maybe the last 15 minutes of the movie. Where can I find a case of these posters to wipe my ass with in case I run out of shit tickets? Anybody?
Okay enough fucking around, let me explain the plot and do this movie an actual simultaneously.
Basically the film is about Harvard law degree holder and renegade cop Jerhico "Action" Jackson (Weathers) and his uncovering of a plot by ruthless auto tycoon Peter Dellaplane (Nelson) to murder Detroit union bosses to supplant his rise to political power. There is of course bad blood between them from the start- Jackson was demoted to sergeant from lieutenant for some bullshit involving Dellaplane's kid that I don't remember or give two shits about.
The movie begins with some sort of ninja assassination crap with what appear to be shoddy slightly under cranked camera shots that make this movie look like it was actually intended for TV. It might have been better this way to be frank with you. The ninja assassination is followed by the dude getting killed by an explosion that sends his flaming corpse plummeting through a glass ceiling. Kind of neat but meh, ninjas are bullshit.
I am barely able to describe this movie its so unmemorable, so let me just hit the high (read: mostly low) points from here on out okay? Jackson's crazy buddy who hasn't slept in days gives him convenient plot exposition about the union murder scheme and gets iced by a cold ass killer wearing a sick ass pair of Rayban Wayfarer shades. Shortly afterward we have to sit through an awful late 80's track by Dellaplane's mistress Sydney Ash (Vanity), where we find out that she likes smack, supplied by her lover Dellaplane. He delivers it via a classy old timey syringe, you know the kind with the interchangeable needle like you see in the old west.
Basically Jackson has been taken off the street and is a pencil pusher. Tasked by his captain to go to a social function he cannot attend due to his wife's parcheezie night (not making that up), Jackson meets Dellaplane's wife Patrice (Sharon Stone) and strikes up an acquaintance. BORING. Oh, before we get that shot of heroin in, we see Sydney's boobs. Also boring. Not to say breasts aren't interesting to me as a straight guy, but the fact that they are shown immediately following CRAIG T. NELSON saying "give me two reasons why I should keep my promises" or some such shit which kinda grosses me out. Its the lamest tit shot I've ever seen besides Halle Berry's chest bearing in the movie Swordfish.
We also later find out Dellaplane is a karate practicing douchebag. BFD. Are you really telling me the dad from the TV show Coach is some badass martial artist? Please piss off. Shortly after that we see Sharon Stone nude in a sauna. Unnecessary. I want decent action here, not nudie bits! Anyways, Patrice overhears the plan to fuck up unions hard and informs Jackson. After more important and uncompelling plot exposition, The wayfarer shades wearing assassin tries to kill our hero by running him over with a taxi cab. Serious bullshit commence:
It was conveniently mentioned at some point that Jackson was a track star, so he of course RUNS after the cab. At at least 25-30 miles an hour. For several city blocks. While yelling. Without slowing down. He then runs up a parked car and leaps on top of the taxi, and has a fight with the wayfarer assassin and is eventually thrown off the top of the car. Watch this helpful clip to view the bullshit that happens next:
SERIOUSLY!?! He ran like ten feet then forward somersaulted SEVERAL METERS into the air over a car driving TOWARD him. I'm glad whoever made this clip repeated the jump twice, just to let it sink in further. Anyway, the assassin gets away and Jackson finally meets up with Sydney after the poor attempt at tough guy joking shown in the trailer. He is dismayed to discover her heroin addiction, but needs her to get at Dellaplane. After going back to her place and barely dodging an exploding telephone (ooo, how nasty!) they hit the street. Later on, Patrice gets shot by Dellaplane for blabbing the lowdown to Jackson. Here lies another extraordinary deviation from the laws of physics. Dellaplane ices Patrice with a short barreled .357 Magnum at point blank range. Now if I'm not mistaken, pistols and guns in general have even a tiny bit of recoil when fired, especially serious business like the gun in question. Forget the fact that there would be a sizable wound, powder burns, and a bullet flying through her body rather than staying put with only minimal mess...
Jackson finds out via the police radio in his car that Patrice is dead so he takes Sydney to dry out (From one day of an obviously long term heroin addiction? Really?) from heroin to a shady ass hotel run by an ex boxer buddy of his. This of course leads to Sydney whining like a schoolgirl about "how she needs a fiiiiixxxxx :( waaaaaahhhh, you poor junkie. Somehow I think a die hard addict would be meaner about wanting drugs, and be more serious about getting some than that. Lo and behold, she finds a dealer in the same hotel (played by Sonny Landham!) who gets his ass beat for being a despicable loser type.
From here our duo go in search of a well known informant in search of more exposition to be handed to them to move the cardboard story forwards. Instead of the informant, all they find are his balls in a jar which leads to this ridiculous altercation:
They wind up getting their information by having Sydney lure a dude in on the fiasco to come to a warehouse and explain everything to them only to be in turn captured by the now (un)infamous ninja assassins, one of whom looks like a genetic mix of Sven Ole Thorson and Van Halen. Dellaplane pulls a Bond villain and tells Jackson EVERYTHING about his assassination plot and leaves so the captured Jackson can be killed by henchmen. This leads to the only reason I still own this film which is this scene:
This then leads Jackson to the dinner Dellaplane is having to murder a key union dude and have it blamed on Jackson by having wayfarer assassin dressed in his clothes. Jackson foils this plot and finally kills wayfarer assassin by causing him to fall from his sniper perch to his grisly death. Stealing one of Dellaplane's stupid show cars (he's an auto tycoon after all), Jackson drives it through Dellaplane's mansion to where Dellaplane is hiding. After a ludicrous martial arts/punching fight Dellaplane gets shot and dies, the cops show up, Jackson gets his Lieutenant bar back, and Sydney vows to quit smack cold turkey (Yeah. Fucking. RIGHT. Just wait till she steals your wallet cold turkey while you're asleep) and Jackson is overjoyed to begin a relationship.
How trite. I'm fairly certain I left quite a bit out because I forgot. This is due to much of this film being completely forgettable.
Okay, time to give the home video some chin music right in the kisser.
The jibe about the quote on the box earlier on is practically all I need to say about the art. Besides the fact that I can't for the life of me figure out why the shit Sharon Stone is even on there as she really doesn't do much except unnecessarily flash her tits in a sauna and get shot by our "villainous" Craig T. Nelson with a large caliber hand gun at point blank range that apparently has zero recoil as mentioned earlier. Here's another anomaly, this movie was somehow selected for Warner Brothers "Hits" video series. For those of us who remember, these were budget priced VHS of movies that may or may not peak buyers interest as DVD slowly strangled my beloved VHS out of the market. But Action Jackson considered a hit? Who's wet dream was this? It cost 7 million to make and somehow managed to make back its budget just shy of three times (This is of course its worldwide gross earnings)! Don't believe me? Here's the box:
Way back when VHS cost a LOT of money, especially rental copies. Check out the price tag on the back of my review copy: 89 bucks! I wonder if this tape ever paid for itself before being sold off for $9.95 then for $1.99 from the goodwill I bought it from? The description is pretty classic too. It mentions how the "last, desperate showdown HURLS (tell me about it) the film toward a heart stopping climax". I sure wish my heart would have stopped, I wouldn't have to be writing this right now.
To further exacerbate this films utter failure to entertain me beyond the one scene vaguely doted upon, read this article from the February 15th, 1988 issue of Jet Magazine. It is unfortunate how optimistic the two main characters were as we now know with the advantage of hindsight this movie was a terrific FAILURE (yes I said it twice in the same paragraph for effect).
Sorry Vanity, this movie didn't ruin your career, being addicted to hard drugs did, like maybe the time you smoked crack with Nikki Sixx. I know that isn't very fair to say, but seriously this movie is no Chinatown when it comes to the casts acting ability...