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Peter’s Retro Reviews: Action Jackson (1988)

Action Jackson Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

”NAME: Jericho Jackson, NICKNAME: Action, HOME: Detroit, PROFESSION: Cop, EDUCATION: Harvard Law, HOBBY: Fighting Crime, WEAPON: You’re lookin’ at ‘em”

This week I’m returning to the world of the 80’s action flicks and you can’t go wrong with one with the actual word “action” in the title, can you? Well, you can… but not with this one, though. The movie’s main character, Jericho Jackson, is played by Carl Weathers, an actor who’s no stranger to action movie lovers. You’ll know him from the four first Rocky movies, for instance, but also from Predator, Force 10 from Navarone or the comedy Happy Gilmore. He’s an imposing figure, but always with a little mischievous glint in the corner of his eyes. I’ve always liked him as an actor, so Action Jackson is a favorite of mine.

"You nearly tore that boy's arm off..."

“You nearly tore that boy’s arm off…”

Unfortunately, when it was released here in Sweden it ran into a force that not even Jericho Jackson could overcome… yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about the sharp scissors of the Swedish censorship. When they were done with it, the movie was roughly four and a half minutes shorter! They, as usual, didn’t like big guys beating the snot out of each other, and since some of the guys used martial art, which was a big no-no at the time, that was promptly cut… along with the stuff involving knives and fire! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Swedish censors were ruthless back then. Most often even more ruthless than the movies they cut to pieces!

Action Jackson is a police officer in Detroit who’s been demoted to desk duty, due to him being a “little bit” rough on a suspect in an earlier case. Or as his boss, played by Bill Duke (Predator, Commando) says: “You nearly tore that boy’s arm off!” To which Jackson answers: “So..? He had a spare!” Macho-talk, you say? Hell yeah! And you better get used to it, because there’s a lot of it in this movie.

The arm in question belongs to the son of a wealthy and powerful business man named Peter Dellaplane who is the bad guy of the movie. He’s played by Craig T. Nelson from the TV show Coach and the movie Poltergeist for instance. Since Jackson threw Dellaplane’s son in jail, he’s not overtly fond of the police officer and is actually the reason that Jackson got demoted. And because of that… well, let’s just say that Dellaplane’s not on Jackson’s Christmas list either.

Dellaplane and Jackson hating on each other.

Dellaplane and Jackson hating on each other.

Jackson is investigating a series of murders on union members that all seem to lead back to Dellaplane’s company. In the eyes of the public, Dellaplane is a pillar to society and has been chosen “Man of the Year”, so Jackson is up against some pretty tall odds. Every lead either disappears or turns up dead, including Jackson’s informant and friend, Tony Moretti, played by the awesome Robert Davi. I’m sure you’ll recognize him from The Goonies, Raw Deal, Licence to Kill or Die Hard.

Dellaplane’s as dirty as they come though and is ruthlessly killing off anyone who stands in his way to the top. He even gets rid of his own wife and frames Jackson for her murder. She’s portrayed by Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct, Total Recall) and even though she knows her husband is a tough businessman, she never suspects him of murder. And when she discovers the truth, she just becomes another obstacle for him to eliminate. Yeah, a regular Mr. Nice Guy, huh?

When Jackson finally gets a break, it’s in the form of Dellaplane’s mistress, a singer and heroin addict named Sydney Ash. She reluctantly agrees to help him after an attempt on her life. Sydney is played by Vanity (The Last Dragon, 52 Pick-Up) and as I’ve stated before in my review on The Last Dragon, she’s not the world’s best actress. In fact, she’s pretty crappy in Action Jackson, but she looks damn good though. She actually sings two songs in the movie… unfortunately they’re crap too.

Ouch, that hurts! My hand... my hand!

Ouch, that hurts! My hand… my hand!

The story is pretty straight forward, the action is plentiful and the comedy is well placed and I like this movie a lot. It’s not a candidate for any academy awards, but hey… if that’s what you’re looking for you’re definitely in the wrong place. What I also find interesting is the amount of recognizable faces in Action Jackson. Not just for the main characters, but for the supporting cast as well. At least if you’ve seen as many of these 80’s action flicks as I have.

Now bear with me please, as I go through some of the names… First of all we have the cool-looking Asian guy, who’s in every damn action movie… His name is Al Leong and you’ve seen him in Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and Big Trouble in Little China to name just a handful.

As Dellaplane’s chauffeur, Cartier, we see Nicholas Worth from Darkman and Swamp Thing.

In two small parts as punching-bags, so to speak, you’ll probably recognize two Native American actors, Sonny Landham (Predator, 48HRS) and Branscombe Richmond from the TV-show Renegade.

The first two victims of the movie are played by Ed O’Ross (Red Heat, The Hidden) and Mary Ellen Trainor (The Goonies, The Monster Squad). As the former boxer Kid Sable, we see Chino “Fats” Williams and as some of Dellaplane’s thugs there are Bob Minor and Dennis Hayden. See what I mean?

Big guys ready for action!

Big guys ready for action!

The director of Action Jackson is one who’s given us Dark Angel and Stone Cold as well as the TV mini-series The Triangle and Storm of the Century. He also directed a couple of episodes of the classic TV-show The A-Team. His name is Craig R. Baxley.

I briefly mentioned the comedy in the movie and some of it centers round a petty thief and pickpocket named Albert. When we first see him he’s attempting to steal the purse of a heavyset woman, but she actually beats the crap out of him, all while two passing cops watches the scene and laughingly decides to pick him up. In the car they tell him about Action Jackson and how some say he’s the result of a genetic experiment gone wrong or that his mother was raped by Bigfoot and Jackson was the offspring. They basically scare the wit out of him! So much so, that when he first encounters Jackson and spill coffee all over his desk and paperwork, he actually faints from fear. This turns into a running gag of sorts, because Albert pops up from time to time all through the movie.

So, my friends, it’s time to end this week’s review and I’ll do so by saying if you haven’t seen this flick, I highly recommend that you do. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! As always, please tell me your thoughts in the comment section!

Until next time…


About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!

2 comments for “Peter’s Retro Reviews: Action Jackson (1988)

  1. February 17, 2014 at 11:55 am

    This is one of my all-out favourite films.

    I never tire of it. It’s everything it wanted to be: tough guys, bad guys, beautiful women, cars…

    I’ve told Joel that Craig R. Baxley has a trilogy of insanity right here! As you mentioned, he helmed Dark Angel [which I really need to see] and Stone Cold. Another personal favourite.

  2. February 17, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    They go unusually slapstick in Action Jackson where Bill Duke gets a call about what antics our protagonist has been up to and exclaims something like, “WHERE THE HELL’S JACKSON?”
    And we cut to where he was standing moments ago… and all we see is the notepaper he was holding just cascading slowly to the floor complete with no sign of Carl Weathers. Very reminiscent of Road Runner leaving the scene!
    Absolutely hilarious.

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