Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Carl Weathers attempted to cash in on the beefy action hero genre of the 1980s. The actor, who played effective second-string roles in the shoot 'em up classic "Predator" and did a stint as punching bag Apollo Creed in several "Rocky" films, finally got his own movie in 1988's "Action Jackson." Apparently, the producers of the picture planned to make further "Action Jackson" movies if the first one hit it big. Sadly, for Weathers at least, the movie tanked at the box office before sinking into relative obscurity on cable television. Not surprisingly, the DVD revolution has resurrected films like "Action Jackson," thus introducing the movie to a whole new generation of action fans. After watching the film, I realize we need to see more motion pictures like this one. Arnold Schwarzenegger went soft once he had kids and refused to make the mega-body count actioners like "Commando" anymore, Sylvester Stallone has lost any allure he once had after years of pedestrian "thrillers," and the action genre has undergone a fundamental change thanks to films like "The Matrix." It's probably hard for some to believe action movies once looked like "Action Jackson."
Carl Weathers plays "Action" Jackson, a loose cannon Detroit cop with a law degree and an authority problem. He was once the star of the department until he busted the son of powerful automobile tycoon Peter Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson) for a heinous crime. In the process of bringing this guy into custody, Jackson beat him up and broke his arm. Dellaplane the father has a lot of clout in the city, and he called in some favors in order to insure Jackson suffered greatly for his actions. Action is still on the force, but he's a lowly cop always under the close supervision of the bull necked Captain Armbruster ("Predator" alumni Bill Duke). Still, Action Jackson's reputation as a no nonsense cop strikes fear into the hearts of criminals everywhere. When some powerful union representatives start dying in droves (one falls out of a building while engulfed in flames, another one dies when his boat evaporates in a huge fireball), Jackson suspects Peter Dellaplane knows something about the gruesome murders. Despite the obstacles in the department, Jackson plows into the case head on.
After his informant Tony Moretti (played with wonderfully paranoid seediness by Robert Davi) tips him off about Dellaplane and then promptly dies, Jackson hits the streets in force. Eventually, both the police department and the automaker's goons are hot on his trail. The requisite car chases, fistfights, and shootings occur with the regularity of a Swiss watch. Sharon Stone even turns up from time to time in the role of Patrice Dellaplane, a woman who seems unaware of her evil husband's plans to crush union opposition to his new line of cars or his plans to get rid of anyone who stands in his way. Since Stone plays opposite Nelson for most of the film, 1980's singer Vanity steps in to provide Action Jackson with female companionship. She plays Sydney Ash, a singer with links to Dellaplane who eventually helps Jackson bring the automaker down. Comic relief, if you can call it that, comes from Thomas F. Wilson (Biff from "Back to the Future") as the mouthy yet fumbling Officer Kornblau. Actually, the jokes run heavy throughout the whole picture, with several running gags popping up every few minutes or so. At least the movie does end on a memorable note, though, as Action Jackson drives a car up the stairs of Peter Dellaplane's house prior to the inevitable final showdown between the cop and car kingpin.
A lot of things work to the good in "Action Jackson." Craig T. Nelson excels in the role of Peter Dellaplane. He positively oozes evil as a greedy corporate type who will do anything in his quest for profit and political power. Carl Weathers does an admirable job as Action Jackson, ably pulling off a character that balances comedy with tough guy attitude. Moreover, most of the action scenes and stunts look good and work well in the context of the story. Unfortunately, many things cripple the movie. Vanity and Sharon Stone appear in roles obviously meant to be nothing more than eye candy. Perhaps the biggest problem in "Action Jackson" is the cut and paste appearance of a significant portion of the film. The first part of the movie moves forward in a logical arc, but not so the final thirty minutes. It looks as though scenes were just thrown together to complete the picture. I guess I shouldn't complain too much, however. These sorts of motion pictures usually violate the laws of reality on a regular basis. I've never been able to understand how cops can destroy millions of dollars of property, endanger innocent civilians, kill dozens of people, yet end up back on patrol the following day. Probably because the script calls for it, I guess.
The DVD contains no extras. If memory serves me right, I remember several incidents in the movie that never appeared on the DVD version. I seem to recall Action Jackson shooting Peter Dellaplane in the head during the final showdown, but here he doesn't do that. Hmmm. Why release an edited version of a rather obscure, by the numbers action film on DVD? It's not as though "Action Jackson" wallows in gore. Oh well, watching the movie all these years later was still a nice trip down memory lane. Give "Action Jackson" a whirl if you like this sort of thing.