Sunday, February 5, 2023

80's Watch: Action Jackson (1988)

Watched:  02/04/2023
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Director:  Craig R Baxley

Well, 13-year-old-me that wanted to see this, we did it.  We finally got around to watching Action Jackson (1988).  And what a strange, strange movie this is.  

There are moments where you think "this movie had a $5 budget" and then you think "well, there are lots of explosions and stuff."  But you also know the star here was Carl Weathers, who is charismatic and cool, but he hadn't carried a ton of stuff or big action movies.  The director is the stunt coordinator from Predator, and the film includes not just Weathers but Bill Duke as the cranky captain calling Jackson into his office and a brief appearance by Sonny Landham (Billy in Predator).  

But that's not all!  Craig T. Nelson plays the Mr. Big corporate villain, a fresh-faced Sharon Stone is his dumb-as-a-bag-of-rocks wife, Vanity is our deeply complicated love interest/ MacGuffin, Tom Wilson (Biff from BTTF) is a cop,  Robert Davi gets five minutes.  But most remarkable, it's just full of "that guy!" character actors in almost every scene.  

The basic plot, which is rendered almost incoherent by the film, is (I think) that Jericho "Action" Jackson once took down the son of a prominent businessman (Craig T. Nelson) but was demoted for police brutality in the process.  Now Craig T. Nelson has a secret goon squad that is bumping off people who could mess up him taking control of the American Autoworkers Union, which he sees as his path to controlling American politics (which seems wildly dubious in 1988, but okay).  Despite having Sharon Stone as his new trophy wife, Nelson is also bedding heroin junky and pop singer, Vanity.  

You know what?  This movie makes sense only in that I *could* belabor myself with relaying all the twists and turns, but it ends in a completely insane scenario at Nelson's house (which is also the house used for the exteriors of Stately Wayne Manor in the 1960's Batman TV show) with Jackson driving a car through a house.  

But, yeah, the movie is just weird.  It takes like 10 minutes to get to Jackson, showing us these weirdly over elaborate murders of people who seem like they could be killed by just walking up to them with a gun and then walking away.  There's a whole pointless detour where we meet pool-hall thugs who cut off dude's balls as a thing they do.  They clearly realized the movie was making no sense and added in a barber we named "Lady Exposition" because she basically both gives Jackson all the info he needs and explains the plot to the audience.  

There's a whole set up for how mean and bad-ass Jackson is that takes so, so much time.  But Carl Weathers always seems... really nice.  And the movie seems to forget that everyone is afraid of him immediately after the start.  For whatever reason, the movie also doesn't allow Jackson to use a gun.  He's forbidden to have one because of his prior actions or something?  He's also supposed to be a Harvard Law School grad we're supposed to believe decided to use that wildly lucrative degree to become a cop?  It's just such a weird movie.  Like - you can do 1000x more with that degree as almost anything else if you want to help out your hometown.  

But he also doesn't really do anything "actiony" until the 38 minute mark of the movie.  Y'all...  that's really late.  They could have opened on him kicking ass.  They could have done a lot of things, but they don't.  We have a whole musical number tucked in there.  There's a plot-driving murder that should be the page 30 twist that happens like 45 minutes in.  It's insane.

There's just so much stuff in the movie that makes zero sense.  Pretty much everything around Vanity was just weird.  Her reason for being a MacGuffin is that she supposedly knows something that can put Craig T. Nelson away, but I have no idea what it was supposed to be - and I don't think she knew either.  But whatever it was, it was hot enough that he tries to kill her by blowing up her phone?  And despite the fact Vanity is a heroin addict who spends the length of the film looking like the healthiest junkie you've ever seen, at the end, she's clearly hooking up with Jackson.  It's so, so weird!  She's gonna clear out his apartment and get back on that horse.  But just look at that poster.  That is one smashing-looking heroin fiend!

Anyway, it's a fascinating watch.  I don't remember the last time I couldn't follow a movie that was pretending like this was all straight forward.  But, holy shit, it is not.  

Oh, and the title track is something called "He Turned Me Out" by the Pointer Sisters.  Which, last I checked, that's slang for being put on the street to turn tricks.  So, I don't even know.  I'm sure that's not what it is.  But I don't know what it is.

I did notice HBOmax categorized it as a comedy, and it made me wonder if I was missing something while watching, because to my eyes, which VERY much remember cop movies of 1988.  Someone help me out here.


Steven said...

Wow. That heroin addiction angle really comes out of nowhere here.

The League said...

when it shows up in the movie, you think "how is THIS going to work?" and the answer is "incredibly poorly".