Action Jackson (1988)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 5/5/13
Producer: Joel Silver
Cast: Carl Weathers, Vanity, Craig T. Nelson, Sharon Stone, cameos by Al Leong, James Lew

Peter Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson) is an ambitious businessman who is making a political power play by killing off his competition. Police Sergeant Jericho "Action" Jackson (Carl Weathers) is on his case, and gets involved with Dellaplane's lovely wife (Sharon Stone) and sexy mistress (Vanity) for information. But Dellaplane frames Jackson for murder, forcing him to go into hiding and take the law into his own hands. A one-on-one smackdown at Dellaplane's mansion finally brings an end to Dellaplane's reign of terror and clears Jackson's name, and a reformed Vanity decides to clean up her act and abandon her self-destructive lifestyle.

A solid action film with high production values and a likable cast. Carl Weathers is extremely charming and charismatic as Jackson, and the role fits him well. Vanity is smoking hot as a junkie whore nightclub singer, and a very young and fresh faced Sharon Stone provides additional eye candy. Sadly (and perhaps intentionally), bad hair and makeup, along with an unflattering wardrobe kill most of Ms. Stone's sex appeal. It's also surprising that both Vanity and Stone get topless in the film, which is a gentle reminder of the film's age and a time when society didn't seem to be so uptight about nudity. The action is fun in an over-the-top way, with outrageous explosions and laughably hard hitting sound effects. James Lew provides some brief martial arts goodness to establish that Dellaplane is a kung fu master among other things. Nelson is unconvincing as a fighter, but his performance is on par with what you'd expect from the genre and the time period.

Unfortunately, the film never found an audience, which killed any chances for a sequel. It ends up being too campy for its own good, and its broad efforts to appeal to the mass market ultimately work against it, diluting its potential and overall effectiveness. It's an interesting attempt to update the hard hitting 70's blaxploitation formula with 80's sensibilities, but it ultimately becomes a casualty of the stifling sterility of political correctness. It's a shame, because with a more serious treatment and a more earnest approach, "Action Jackson" could have really made an impact, and I would have certainly enjoyed following Jackson's continued adventures.