A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 443 – Action Jackson

Action Jackson – May 17th, 2011

I admit, we bought this on a whim. See, there’s a passing reference to it in an episode of MST3K we watch a hell of a lot and so when I saw it on the list I said “Let’s get that.” Okay, yeah, I have the same sorts of moments my husband has where I buy movies for no particularly good reason. But I’m going to take a moment and fill my gloat with smug because this movie is a gem of eighties action cop cheese. It is full of fantastic and ridiculous moments like the titular character leaping over a car and eventually getting his shirt torn off for no particular reason other than to show off his oiled buffness. The villain could have been a little more over the top, but I’ll get to him in a moment. First, let’s talk about Action Jackson himself.

Jackson is a cop in Detroit, busted down to Sergeant from Lieutenant for tearing a guy’s arm off. Yeah, you read that right. Dude tore someone’s arm off. Of course, the guy whose arm he tore off was a sexual predator and, as Jackson says, “He had a spare.” Yep. Action Jackson. Anyhow, said busting left him stuck on a desk with no gun and no marriage. But he’s Action Jackson! He’s ripped and he drives an Impala and he’s got a degree from Harvard Law! Clearly he doesn’t need any of this bullshit. He needs to get back out on the street to kick some ass and take names, probably in that order. Because there’s something going down and the aforementioned sexual predator’s father is involved and Jackson is going to take him out and get back up to Lieutenant. To give you an idea of how much Jackson doesn’t belong on a desk we get to see him chase after a cab on foot. A cab driven by a would-be hit-man who’d just tried to hit him. And then he smashes in the cab’s windshield with his fist. And then he leaps over it. Because he’s Action Jackson.

At no time is it implied that Jackson is actually any sort of super man. A couple of beat cops bringing in a purse snatcher do spin wild tales of Jackson being some sort of beast-like frothing maniac, but that seems to be more for the lulz of watching the purse snatcher drop a load when he meets Jackson for the first time. I mean, it seems reasonable that the other cops on the force would know that Jackson is this unstoppable tank of a man but no one really references it outside of jokes. Which is ridiculous! Utterly ridiculous. But that’s this movie for you.

The plot is fairly standard cop action fare. Jackson’s out to get his man, automotive manufacturer Peter Dellaplane, and prove he’s up to no good. We see a few guys killed off by a team of assassins and then we see Dellaplane named Man of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce or something like that. So of course no one could possibly believe he’s behind the deaths of prominent union bosses for the very union that works at his plants! Only Jackson knows the truth! Okay, only Jackson, an old friend of his named Morretti, Dellaplane’s butler/hit-man, possibly Dellaplane’s mistress and a hairdresser named Dee, who seems to know absolutely everything about everyone in the city and possibly the world. She’s a bit of a Deus ex Machina except replace Machina with salon. Jackson meets up with the mistress, Sydney, and together they head off to find out what they can about Dellaplane and figure out how to catch him out and prove that he’s a slimebag. Which, you know, Jackson is now very invested in since Dellaplane has murdered his own wife and framed Jackson for it.

I’ve got to admit, I like Sydney, played by Vanity. I could do with a little less whining about needing a fix, but she’s smart and she’s strong and she’s talented and while she does need rescuing a few times she also rescues Jackson. Admittedly, she rescues him in one of the most bizarre and stereotype-laden scenes the movie contains (and that’s impressive because let’s just say that this movie is not precisely sensitive to anything). But still, I like her. I like Jackson too. He’s a good guy and he’s generally a likeable character, which is more than I can say for almost everyone else in the movie. It’s rare that I start a movie not knowing who’s supposed to be the party to root for but this movie managed.

Part of it is that this movie is so very dated that it thinks nothing of having a man who should be a sympathetic character sexually harass his secretary by trying to seduce her and keep her after hours when she’s stated she has to leave for a date. I was not sorry to see him get shot. And that’s the opening scene of the movie. The next scene is the beat cops and the purse snatcher and the beat cops are pretty loathsome too, though one more than the other (who eventually tells his jackass partner that he’s about to get his head shoved up his ass, so, there’s that). Really, it’s hard to believe you’re supposed to root for these people. Except you’re not! Granted, the guys who get killed are supposed to be vaguely sympathetic, but the other cops? No. You do not have to like them, and thank goodness, because Jackson doesn’t like them. And Jackson is really the only dude you’re supposed to care about. Him, Sydney and poor doomed Patrice Dellaplane (played by Sharon Stone, who’s in about ten minutes of film time tops and still has to do one scene mostly nude).

Jackson’s boss isn’t really bad, but he is supposed to be one of those gruff Chiefs who chews out the hero in order to set the hero up to prove himself. And prove himself Jackson does, by managing to evade all the attempts on his life, infiltrating a party Dellaplane’s holding and using his connections with bouncers and former boxers to take care of business. Then he drives a car through a house. Seriously, these things happen and they are awesome.

Unfortunately for this movie, the bad guy is just sort of meh. Craig T. Nelson plays the supposed-to-be-sleazy Dellaplane and he does okay, but up against Carl Weathers as Jackson? He’s just too low key. He gets a couple of great lines about murder being a tool and so on and so forth, but he doesn’t deliver them with the conviction I expect from a villain who’s this ruthless and scheming and manipulative. I want to really believe this guy is totally and completely devoted to killing Jackson and stealing all the power he can, but he seems so blase about it. Nonchalant. Which works on one level, because this is the sort of guy who apparently thinks nothing of having his own son killed off in prison for being too much of an embarrassment to the family name. But while I can understand that sort of villainous delivery, it’s not right for this movie. This movie has a man’s balls in a mason jar and that was done by a bit role! When the minor villains upstage you, you need to fortify your performance diet by chewing some scenery.

Really though, the issue with Dellaplane isn’t enough to keep me from being thoroughly enthralled by this movie. It is so very over the top and excessive, which fits, what with it being a product of the 80s. It’s full of cheesy lines and horrible puns and big 80s hair and big 80s music and hilarious action and Action Jackson kicking ass in every fight scene and it’s just plain fun. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before but now I have and I honestly think my life is better for it.


May 17, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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