Action Jackson (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It isn't easy to write about a movie like this. It isn't really awful enough to earn any snide remarks, and it isn't really good enough to merit any praise. It isn't original enough to make you sit up and pay attention, but it isn't predictable enough to allow you to fall asleep.

Of course, it isn't good. It got one star from Roger Ebert, 0% positive reviews, and is rated 4.4 at IMDb.

The formula:

Take one outstanding athlete, place him in a role as an uncompromisingly honest cop. Stir in some corrupt, over-the-top bad guys. Let the cop's superior get caught between justice and politics. Get some beautiful women naked and dead. Stir in some wisecracks. Voila - instant second-tier actioner. Such a film is Action Jackson, or A.J., as it is known to its fan. It was meant to be the first of a series, kind of the black Dirty Harry. The studio felt that Weathers was a hunky guy with a reasonable gift for action and comedy, but he just didn't make much of an impact on moviegoers, and the sequels never materialized.

The movie found it difficult to negotiate the Tarantino Line between extreme violence and comedy. Some of it is kinda disturbed. The evil bad guy kills his wife (Sharon Stone) while kissing her, for example, then keeps kissing her.

But there are a few sorta cool things in the film.

  • Man, Detroit is a tough town. The cab drivers make you run alongside the cab. Then if you can outrun them, they let you ride on the roof. And they keep the meter going the whole time, plus charge you extra for the work-out. Even in the Big Apple they they you ride inside the cab, although that could be because most New York cabbies don't know how to say "you go top". They don't learn that until after "my sister love you long time, Joe".
  • Action drives an expensive sports car through the bad guy's mansion. And I don't mean just through one wall. He's actually motoring around in there as if practicing for the Monaco Grand Prix.
  • Vanity and Sharon Stone are very good looking women, and they both take off their tops. Stone also does a nude scene in a steamy bathroom, but it is almost impossible to make out anything but shapes in that particular scene. Stone also sets some kind of record in this film for shimmeriest lip gloss. Her lips were so shiny that jackdaws were trying to steal them.
  • The manly humor isn't bad at all.
Craig Baxley, the director, just didn't want to let this "jock/detective against impossible odds" concept die. He followed up with Dark Angel, which featured a heavily-muscled Dolph Lundgren as a cop against incredible odds (a drug dealer from outer space!!), and then he made Stone Cold, which featured another heavily-muscled cop against incredible odds (an entire biker army).


see the main commentary

The latter was the triumphant screen debut of that linebacker turned actor, 80's icon turned 90's trivia answer, Brian Bosworth. The Bozz was one of the greatest college football players in history, fortunate and talented enough to be able to play college ball in his home state and star on a national champion Oklahoma team. With his good looks, his insouciant attitude, and his football prowess, he was the "can't miss" name of the 80's. The only question was whether he'd get his place on the Hollywood walk of fame before he made it into the football hall of fame.

It didn't really work out the way he hoped.

DVD info from Amazon.

No widescreen, no features. The 4:3 transfer is quite good, however.

I'll bet you didn't know the Bozz is still acting, and is still only 36 years old, even though his football career seems in the distant past, and his acting career seems like it never happened at all. Maybe you saw him on the XFL telecasts, as the grade-b Howie Long.

As for Carl "Action Jackson Apollo Creed" Weathers, he's still acting as well, but I didn't even recognize his picture at IMDb

The Critics Vote

  • Roger Ebert 1/4

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars:  it grossed $20 million in the USA
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, C-. It's a second-tier action film. I think it is watchable, but not impressive.

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