There’s a sequence in Action Jackson – the 1988 movie giving Carl Weathers the opportunity to lead his own franchise in the making that never happened – in which the title character, Action Jackson, played by Weathers, is trying to chase down a cab that had just tried to kill Action Jackson and Patrice Dellaplane, played by Sharon Stone. At this point in the movie, Action Jackson had not shown any particular superhero skills or supernatural powers, but now here he is, running just as fast, or faster, than a speeding cab. Action Jackson finally jumps onto the cab’s roof and punches out the windshield, causing the would-be assassin to hit the brakes, sending Action Jackson flying off ahead onto the pavement. Now at this point, the assassin has a gun and can just shoot Action Jackson, but Action Jackson calls him a chicken, resulting in the cab careening at Action Jackson at full speed. Oh, but, Action Jackson jumps over the cab and does a flip in mid-air that so stuns the assassin that he crashes his cab into a building. Action Jackson will live to see another day.
Up until that scene, we heard a lot of stories about Jericho “Action” Jackson’s prominence for, well, “action.” But, you see, Action Jackson had been demoted and benched for tearing a criminal’s arm off. When Action Jackson’s captain (Bill Duke, being awesome) brings this up, Action Jackson replies, “He had a spare.” But this isn’t just any criminal, Action Jackson tore the arm off of local prominent Detroit auto manufacturer Peter Dellaplane’s (Craig T. Nelson) son. And for reasons that make absolutely no sense, Action Jackson is designated to be the police department’s representative at the hilariously titled “Businessman’s Man of the Year Award,” where Dellaplane is receiving the highest award. When the two have words, it’s obvious Action Jackson does not like Dellaplane because he’s a crook. Dellaplane does not like Action Jackson because Action Jackson tore his son’s arm off. This movie is hilarious.
Considering the outpouring of love toward Weathers after the announcement of his passing on Friday, it’s unusual his biggest movie as the outright star of the film doesn’t have much of a footprint today, if any. When I posted on Twitter/X on Friday that we were watching it, it seemed evident most people had never seen it. I finally posted a clip of the scene I described in the opening paragraph, which actually convinced a few people to give it a shot. And to be fair, I am also a person who kind of forgot about this movie. I hadn’t seen it since theaters and I remember it being a fraught experience. Action Jackson is now one of those hilariously over-the-top violent movies that feels endearing in a, “They sure don’t make ’em like that anymore,” way that wasn’t as endearing back then. It was one of those situations where my parents were on an outing with their couple friends, John and Carol, in a city called Osage Beach, Missouri, near Lake of the Ozark. (You know, the show made famous by the Netflix series, Ozark.) So they could sneak away and get cocktails (at least I assume), they left me and John and Carol’s two daughters at the local theater at the only movie that was playing was Action Jackson. The way I remember it, I was 13 and having a great time, but the younger daughter who was maybe eight years old certainly was not. “Hey, let’s just dump these three kids off at the movies at the extremely R-rated movie.” The ’80s, what a time! (On Friday night I texted the older daughter, who I still somehow know a little bit, and asked if she remembered this. Not surprisingly, she had no idea what I was talking about. Apparently, seeing Action Jackson was not as important to her as it was for me.
Anyway … the plot of Action Jackson centers on Peter Dellaplane having auto union reps murdered and Action Jackson tries to stop him with the help of Dellaplane’s mistress, Sydney Ash (Vanity). I’ll be honest, I was a little worried about rewatching this movie after so long. Weathers’ death is so heartbreaking (gosh he’s been so good in Star Wars) that I didn’t want to watch something that wasn’t a fun time. Of course, Action Jackson got terrible reviews at the time, but most of the movies like this got terrible reviews at the time.
Actually, the only downbeat to the whole thing was there are not, somehow, five Action Jackson movies. It made money! You can’t tell me they couldn’t have, at the very least, made a few direct-to-video sequels? Nope. This is it. I swear, if there were ten Action Jackson movies I’d watch them all this week. But there’s only one, and if you like cool, hilarious, violent action movies starring Carl Weathers, you should watch it. (Of course, being from 1988 there are always a couple moments that wouldn’t fly today.)
So there’s almost a sequel. There’s a 1990 movie called Dangerous Passion with Weathers and Billy Dee Williams that, in parts of Europe, was marketed as Action Jackson 2, even though it has nothing to do with Action Jackson. While reading about Dangerous Passion, it says Weathers plays “a security expert” named Kyle Western. Enough said, I immediately bought a used DVD off Amazon.
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