Leonard Maltin says Action Jackson is "strictly standard B movie fare" that has "plenty of explosions, car chases, corpses and noise." He says it like that's a bad thing. What would Joe Bob Briggs of MonsterVision and Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 say? Let's find out -
First, Mike Nelson:
Pigskin magician Carl Weathers [the only one of Predator’s 3 stars not to go into politics and become the Governor of a State in real life] stars as Jericho “Action” Jackson, a streetwise cop on the edge, etc., etc. Frankly, he’s pretty lucky his name is Jackson, and he is so action-oriented as to warrant the nickname “Action,” because if his last name were Paulson or Reese or Thibedeau, the title would have lacked the special magic that gives it its appeal. “Carl Weathers Is Action Paulson” or “Carl Weathers Is Action Thibedeau” would not have worked.
Craig T. Nelson of Poltergeist is Action’s Moriarty, Peter Dellaplane. You can tell he’s evil because he’s rich and has a whole can of gray dye in his hair. Sharon Stone plays a woman who wears a backless dress—I think she’s Dellaplane’s wife or something. She’s really blond and tan and appears to be addicted to Dr Pepper lip gloss. Vanity plays Nelson’s mistress, a nightclub singer who vacuums up his endless supply of heroin. And speaking of nicknames, is “Vanity” really a good choice? Why not “Bidet,” or “Shower Curtain,” or some other bathroom fixture?
As delightful a bad movie as it is, I must report a glaring flaw. Early in the film, Dellaplane, in attempting to remember Jackson’s nickname, says, “Oh, that’s right—it rhymes.” Well, no, it doesn’t, Mr. Dellaplane. If it rhymed, it would be “Action Jacktion,” or “Ackson Jackson,” which clearly it is not. If the filmmakers had just dug a little deeper, cared a little more, the line would have read, “Oh, that’s right—it utilizes assonance.” It’s sad to see a movie like this ruined by such a glaring mistake.
Another Sunday warrior, Brian Bosworth, made a much better film — 1991’s Stone Cold. The Bos (or Boz, or Bahz, I’m not really sure) stars as Joe Huff, a streetwise cop on the edge, etc., etc. He’s shanghaied by the FBI to infiltrate a gang of bikers led by the evil Chains (Lance Henriksen). In order to fool the wily “brotherhood,” Huff “becomes” a biker—he rides a “hog,” he refers to his intimate female companion as his “old lady,” he throws back some “suds.” When prompted, he lifts his T-shirt to reveal his bare breast.
Once in the gang, he takes the name John Stone as a pseudonym. Now, I hate to perseverate on this point, but again, he’s lucky the name lent itself to the tide’s particularly mischievous brand of wordplay, for had it been John Padwerski, John Clementine, or John Cromwell, I can’t imagine an exec green-lighting this film. “Brian Bosworth in Padwerski Cold” would not work.
William Forsyth plays Ice, Chains’s assistant. Apparently, when he’s not directing charming, quirky films like Gregory’s Girl, Comfort and Joy, and Local Hero, he’s playing greasy bikers in B movies. Maybe it’s a different guy. Anyway, Ice mistrusts Stone (we know he’s Joe Huff, but Ice doesn’t, the poor dope) and suspects he might be FBI, a cop, or a washed-up football player. Chains likes him instantly because he drinks a lot of Dixie brand beer and can beat guys up. Soon he is on the inside, learning all about the gang’s plan to kill the hard-line D.A. and Presbyterian ministers. It’s never explained why they’re killing Presbyterian ministers. Is it well known that bikers hate Presbyterian ministers, and I just missed it?
It all leads to a showdown at the courthouse, where the scruffy, drunken bikers manage to kill more soldiers than were officially killed in both The Great War and WWII.
It’s worth sticking around for the credits, where we find out the bikers’ names were Gut, Tool, Trouble, Mudfish, A.W.O.L., and Vitamin. To me, it would be a shame to go to all the trouble of being a biker—all the hazing, having to down all that warm, skunky beer, getting prickly heat and odd rashes from infrequently laundered leather pants—only to be given the nickname "Vitamin." Now that I think of it, “Mudfish” isn’t going to strike terror in any but the most timorous soul.
I have to go now.
I’m working on a screenplay for William “The Refrigerator” Perry. He’s a time-traveling cop on the edge named Jake Stitch. The working title is A Stitch in Time. Direct all inquiries to my agent.
Action Jackson (From Joe Bob's Ultimate B Movie Guide)
The underrated classic in which Carl Weathers makes his bid to be an action superstar, with exploding Camaros, outstanding stuntwork, Kung Fu, Ninja Fu, Bimbo Fu, Flying Taxi Fu and, most terrifying of all, Vanity Fu. Vanity sings not one but two torch songs, pops her top, shoots up with Horse, and wears a dress that she's in danger of falling out of at any moment. It's no wonder that Craig T. Nelson neglects his trophy wife, played by Sharon Stone, in favor of inject-a-sex with Vanity, then kills Sharon in mid-kiss and mid-aardvark.
Fortunately, this has absolutely no effect on Action Jackson himself, a busted police sergeant who's trying to destroy Nelson's auto empire. Nelson is not only an evil industrialist, but a pusher, a murderer, a karate expert who likes to beat up Chinese guys for the fun of it, the father of a psychotic mass murdered, a serial wife-killer, and the kind of guy who would promise a young impressionable girl a Motown contract and then not deliver. He's such a meanie that he actually kind of likes Action Jackson, the man trying to stop him, because Action once ripped his psycho son's arm out. Five breasts. Sixteen dead bodies. Knife through the hand. Twenty-story falling fireball stunt. Harpoon through the heart. Knife through the throat. Barbecued ninja. Three motor vehicle chases. Three exploding cars, with five crashes. Exploding yacht. Exploding character actor. Gazebos-in-a-jar. Gratuitous "no arms and legs" jokes. Gratuitous "Flintstones." Karate Fu. UPS Fu. Sharon Stone takes a gratuitous shower and wears a dress with no back in it. With Bill Duke as Captain Ambruster, Sonny Landham as a weird Indian drug pusher dude with a knife the size of Montana, Chino "Fats" Williams as the desk clerk at the sleaziest hotel in Detroit. Best exchange has Vanity singing a song called "Undress" for Nelson, and saying "I expected a standing ovation." Nelson's reply: "You're getting one." Written by Robert Reneau. Directed by ex-stuntman Craig R. Baxley.
Books by Michael Nelson available from Amazon.com include Movie Megacheese. Mike's episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are available from Amazon.com on both video and on DVD, and he co-wrote the MST3000 book