Looking Back at Action Jackson (1988)

This year the Craig R. Baxley Directed actioner Action Jackson starring Carl Weathers turns 30 years old; I always wanted to see Weathers in more movies as the lead especially in a couple of sequels to this very film as I found him incredibly charismatic.

The plot to Action Jackson is as follows: Due to the use of excessive force in arresting a sexual predator, Detective Lt. Jericho “Action” Jackson (Carl Weathers) is demoted to police sergeant. What’s worse, the father of the man he roughed up, Detroit industrialist Peter Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson), declares war on Jackson, framing him for the murder of his own wife, Patrice (Sharon Stone). But Jericho manages to elude arrest and, with the help of a drug-addicted singer named Sydney (Vanity), goes after Dellaplane.

Action Jackson is essentially a who’s who of 80’s action with appearances from Al Leong, Robert Davi, Ed O’Ross and Dennis Hayden as well as a Predator reunion with Bill Duke and Sonny Landham showing up.  Not only is it a Predator reunion but of course Die Hard was also out in 1988 which starred Dennis Hayden, De’voreaux White, Robert Davi, Mary Ellen Trainor and Al Leong all of whom are in this movie.

It kind of flips action movie conventions of the time on their head as Davi and O’Ross were usually bad guys but in this they are murder victims taken out by Dellaplane’s men.

We also are expecting Jackson to first appear in a badass fashion typical of action movies of the era but instead he is sitting behind his desk and he doesn’t actually have an action scene until half way through the film.

The love interest of the film (played by the late Vanity) is a junkie club singer called Sydney Ash who also defied conventions; during this period most women in action movies were portrayed as screaming and helpless but she tends to laugh most of the time, never seeming particularly concerned that her life is in danger.

The main focus during the first half of the film is Dellaplane who is a particularly nasty villain and even murders his wife (played by Sharon Stone in an early role) in brutal fashion. Nelson is suitably menacing as the villain and you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of his scowls.

For the majority of the movie you feel like everyone is just winking at the camera not taking things all that seriously but then at times the tone gets much darker giving the film a slightly uneven feel to it. It also has the odd pacing issue with a few too many talky scenes where all we really want to see is Jackson in action (like the title suggests).

When we do get to the action it’s rather impressive with an exciting car chase through the city streets with Jackson riding on top of a taxi trying to grab the driver; an exploding boat is also nicely done but it’s the final 20 minutes when the film becomes truly awesome however, as Jackson becomes the one-liner spewing badass we’ve wanted. With lines like “How do you like your ribs?” and other zingers it really delivers what we as the audience want to see. There are several casually violent kills during the climax and I always thought the opening scene was particularly mean spirited (but awesome).

Sidenote – Did you notice during that opening scene they are watching the end fight of Rocky II starring yes, you guessed it Carl Weathers?

Weathers was born to play the role of Action Jackson and it’s a shame the planned sequel never happened; perhaps it’s time for Jackson to come out of retirement one last time…