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Action Jackson

Action Jackson


Today’s feature is the 1988 Carl Weathers super-cop movie, Action Jackson.

Action Jackson was written by Robert Reneau, who is best known for writing the screenplay for Demolition Man. The director for the film was Craig R. Baxley, who also helmed the Dolph Lundgren movie Dark Angel (AKA I Come In Peace). However, he is most known for being a veteran stunt coordinator, with a career on such productions as Predator and The Warriors.

The cinematographer for Action Jackson was Matthew F. Leonetti, who also shot the movies Santa’s Slay, The Butterfly Effect, Red Heat, Commando, and The Bat People. The editor for the movie was Mark Helfrich, who has cut films like R.I.P.D., Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls, and the Cannon movie Revenge of the Ninja.

The producers for Action Jackson were Steve Perry (Speed 2: Cruise Control, Executive Decision, Road House) and Joel Silver (Speed Racer, Dungeons & Dragons, Swordfish, Hudson Hawk, Predator 2, Xanadu).

The musical score for Action Jackson was composed by the team of Michael Kamen (X-Men, Iron Giant, Event Horizon, Last Action Hero, Hudson Hawk, The Dead Zone) and noted jazz-funk pianist Herbie Hancock (Death Wish, ‘Round Midnight).

The team of effects workers on Action Jackson included Andrew Sebok (Memento, The Last Boy Scout, Die Hard, Road House), Jay Bartus (Jingle All The Way, Dark Angel, Seven Psychopaths), Al Di Sarro (Speed 2: Cruise Control, Red Dragon, Predator), James Camomile (Swordfish, Heaven’s Gate), Scott H. Eddo (Judge Dredd, Hudson Hawk, Mystery Men, Saw),

The cast of Action Jackson includes Carl Weathers (Predator, Rocky, Arrested Development), Craig T. Nelson (Poltergeist, Coach), Vanity (Never Too Young To Die, The Last Dragon), Sharon Stone (Casino, Basic Instinct), Thomas Wilson (Back To The Future, April Fool’s Day), Robert Davi (Predator 2, Maniac Cop 2, Maniac Cop 3), and Bill Duke (Predator, Commando).

actionjackson2The noted music personality Paula Abdul provided the choreography work for Action Jackson, which released in theaters the same year that her debut album became a hit.

The concept for Action Jackson, a blaxploitation-inspired police action movie with Weathers in the lead, was conceived of on the set of Predator. As a result, the two productions have a number of common elements both in front of and behind the camera.

Vanity wound up receiving a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for her role in Action Jackson, which are given out to the judged worst performances and movies of the year. She ultimately lost out to Liza Minelli for her performances in Rent-A-Cop and Arthur 2: On The Rocks.

The hope was for Action Jackson to mark the first in a series of films, making up a franchise for years to come. Unfortunately, though the movie grossed $20 million domestically on a budget of $7 million, the reviews were overwhelmingly negative: it currently holds Rotten Tomatoes scores of 10% (critics) and 32% (audience), alongside an IMDb rating of 5.1. Adding on top of the complications, the production company and its library/rights were soon sold, making a sequel even more unlikely.

In regards to performances, Carl Weathers was enjoying himself throughout making Action Jackson, and is solid throughout the film likely because of that. I personally didn’t think Vanity was all that bad, particularly when compared with her other acting roles before this. Craig T. Nelson, on the other hand, is absolutely top-of-the-line as the antagonist in this movie.

actionjackson3As you would expect given the director’s history with stunt work, Action Jackson is filled with solid stunts of every variety, culminating in a sports car rampaging through a mansion. The stunts help build the generally fun and exciting tone for the movie, which is careful never to take itself too seriously, but never goes so far as to wink to the camera.

My biggest criticism of Action Jackson is that it seems to drag on just a little too long for what it is, but I think it does a good enough job of staying interesting throughout the run time. Most of the criticisms I have seen have either claimed that it is too boring, or too light-hearted in tone for how violent the content is. For instance, here is a blurb from Roger Ebert’s review:

Rarely have comedy and gruesome violence been combined in such a blithe mixture, as if the violence didn’t really count.

I can perhaps see how a violent action-comedy wouldn’t have flown for many people in 1988, but this is not some excessively violent flick by today’s standards of action comedy. Honestly, the content didn’t really occur to me at all while watching the movie. It isn’t dramatically different from something you would see in an average police-focused television drama nowadays, and I didn’t think it ruined the comedy or vice-versa in any sense. It seems to me that people have warmed to the movie over the years, as it was perhaps a bit ahead of its time in that regard.

When it comes to blaxploitation send-up movies, Black Dynamite is definitely my favorite of the lot, but Action Jackson is a solid, more serious homage to the genre. It isn’t a “good” movie by any means, but I think it is successful in being what it was intended to be. I think it deserves a second look from people nowadays at the very least, because it strikes me as having been written off a bit too hastily.


Bargain Bin(ge): Replays Gameware (Tuscaloosa/Northport, AL)

Tuscaloosa, AL isn’t a particularly big or interesting place. Unless you’re there for football, school, or the unimaginable combination of the two, there isn’t a whole lot to soak in. I would know, because I lived there for a while.

That said, there are a surprising number of used media stores in the area for how modest the population is. I’ve already covered the MovieStop chain quite a bit, which has a prominent location in Tuscaloosa. However, the real gems in the area are two sites of the small franchise Replays Gameware & DVDs, which you will seldom see outside of small towns and modest cities like Tuscaloosa.


While the selection isn’t outstanding, these shops aren’t afraid to hold blowout sales to clear out their stock, particularly for their DVDs (as they are primarily vintage gaming shops).  If you catch them during one of those (as I did), the deals are very solid. There is also something to be said about the atmosphere at these shops: they are far less sterile than many of the larger buy/sell/trade chains, and hold on to the intimate and casual ambiance that a lot of people miss from the days of video rental. For people who are into that, Replays has never failed to deliver that for me.

Getting on to the actual haul, let’s start with the central Tuscaloosa location:




Holy shit! It’s my favorite William H. Macy-voiced killer robot: Evolver! I covered this particular flick as part of Killer Robot Week, but this is actually the first time I had come across a DVD copy of it. Of course, I had to pick it up. Why wouldn’t I? If you want to know more, go check out my earlier review of it. Or, better yet, just dig it up on Netflix without any primer.

Action Jackson


Action Jackson is a movie where Carl Weathers (Predator, Rocky, Arrested Development) plays a super-cop, which is all I need to know about it. Also, Vanity of Never Too Young To Die and The Last Dragon co-stars alongside him, in case I needed extra incentive to pick this up (I didn’t). This is another one of those movies that I have just never gotten around to, so when I spotted it on sale, I decided that it should come home with me. I have a feeling that if I throw that movie in my DVD player, I’ll have a mean stew going.

The Thing With Two Heads


Gosh, where can I possibly start with this bizarre b-movie? It is about a racist white man whose (functioning) head is grafted onto a black guy, which results in a movie’s worth of hilarious, action-filled hi-jinks. Academy Award winner Ray Milland did this flick in 1972, the same year in which he featured prominently in the outlandish horror movie Frogs, which I covered here previously. I first heard about this flick when Stuart Gordon did a spotlight on it for Trailers From Hell, and it has been on my to-watch list ever since.  Keep your eyes peeled, because this sounds like a lock for me to cover at some point in the future.

While the Tuscaloosa location did yield me those three much-appreciated finds, the Northport location just outside of town really gave me some fuel for the bad movie fire:


The Crippled Avengers


Martial Arts films definitely aren’t my strong suit, and my knowledge base is admittedly pretty lacking in this department. However, this is a flick that I heard about recently via The Cinema Snob, and I was a little surprised to see it with a DVD release at all given how obscure most of his picks are. I hear that this is actually a pretty decent action flick, but I may just cover it anyway for its cult appeal.

Children of the Corn II / Children of the Corn III


This is a franchise that I have no experience with outside of the original. However, I do know that people hate these two movies with a burning passion, and that I have never seen them. Thus, this was an obvious pickup for me.

The Substitute / The Substitute II / The Substitute III / The Substitute IV


There are three sequels to The Substitute? And they all star the zombie-cop  Treat Williams? There is absolutely no way that these movies are good, and the fact that I had no idea they existed makes me absolutely giddy. I can’t wait to dig into these, and I hope they yield something worth covering here on the blog.

The original The Substitute was featured on the We Hate Movies podcast not too long ago, which made me give consideration to picking it up at some point. I vaguely remember seeing it as a kid, but it was really easy to get confused with The Principal, one of the finest films in the history of cinema. Regardless, I am baffled that this flick managed to spawn so many sequels, which has me deathly curious as to how the story continuity works between them.

Fright Night / Monster High / The Craft / Brainscan


It is hard to resist the allure of a cheap compilation DVD. In this case, cult classics Fright Night and The Craft anchor a couple of lesser-known flicks that leech onto their sides like barnacles. The one that initially caught my eye was Brainscan, which was on my shortlist to cover back during Killer Robot Week. However, I have a hunch that Monster High is going to be the highlight of the bunch, because it sounds absolutely wretched, and holds an unenviable IMDB rating of 3.3.