Action Jackson (1988, directed by Craig R. Baxley)

Jericho Jackson (Carl Weathers) is the tough Detroit cop who everyone calls “Action” because I guess Jericho was just too normal a name.  He’s a legend in the department and on the streets of the Motor City.  “Some people say his mother was molested by Bigfoot,” one patrolman says but the truth is simpler.  Jackson was a high school football star before he went to Harvard Law and got his degree.  He could have been an attorney but he decided to become a cop instead.

Unfortunately, Action Jackson is currently Desk Duty Jackson.  When he arrested Sean Dellaplane, the pervert son of auto manufacturer Peter Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson), Jackson “nearly ripped off the boy’s arm.”  (“He had a spare!” Jackson snarls.)  Everyone says that, since his son’s arrest and his marriage to the beautiful Patrice (Sharon Stone), Peter Dellaplane has turned over a new leaf and is now an honest businessman.  Action Jackson doesn’t buy it.  In fact, he suspects that Dellaplane is responsible for the brutal murder of a union rep.

Though he may be married, Dellaplane still has a mistress.  Sydney Ash (Vanity) is a heroin-addicted singer.  After Dellaplane watches her sing a song, Sydney tells him, “I was expecting a standing ovation.”  “You’re getting one,” Dellaplane replies.  Jackson knows the best way to get to Dellaplane is to get his hands on Sydney.  He better hurry because Action Jackson has been framed for a murder that he didn’t commit and now he’s got every cop and criminal in Detroit after him.

A lot of people will tell you that Action Jackson is a bad movie but I like it.  It’s a tribute to the classic blaxploitation films of the 70s and though the violence may be excessive, it’s all played tongue-in-cheek.  Carl Weathers first suggested the movie to Joel Silver while the two of them were filming Predator and, from the start, Action Jackson is proud to be a B-movie.  There’s no subtext or deeper meaning involved, beyond Action Jackson cleaning up the streets.  Taking it seriously would be a crime.  This is probably the only film where you will ever be able to see Apollo Creed and the dad from Poltergeist face off in hand-to-hand combat.  Of course, whenever Craig T. Nelson throws a punch or a kick, the scene cuts away to disguise the fact that a stuntman is doing most of the work but even that becomes fun to watch for.  Some B-movie have a visible boom mic.  Action Jackson has a stuntman disguised to look like Craig T. Nelson from behind.

If I do have a complaint, it’s that the script is heavy on the one-liners, which makes sense as this film was made shortly after Schwarzenegger revolutionized action film dialogue with “I’ll be back.”  Unfortunately, Weathers wasn’t as good at handling one-liners as Arnie and Bruce Willis were.  As anyone who has seen the first four Rockys can tell you, Carl Weathers was an actor who could create art from a monologue of non-stop trash talk.  As I watched the film, I kept wishing that Action Jackson would do some Apollo Creed-level trash-talking whenever he was fighting the bad guys.  Maybe if he had, there would have been an Action Jackson 2.

A Scene That I Love: In Memory of Rudy Ray Moore, The Fight Scene From Dolemite

93 years ago, on this date in 1917, Rudy Ray Moore was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  From humble beginnings, Moore would grow up to become a comedian who inspires a cult-like following to this day.  Imagine Redd Foxx with even bluer material but less personal animus against the world and you might have some idea of the type of material that made Rudy Ray Moore famous.

Moore was not just a comedian.  He was also a self-proclaimed film star.  Dolemite, which he produced and starred in, remains his best-known movie.  Dolemite is a blaxploitation film but it’s a blaxploitation film unlike any other.  Moore plays Dolemite, a pimp who has been released from prison after serving 20 years.  Dolemite seeks revenge on the man who set him up, Willie Green (played by the film’s director, D’Urville Martin.)  Along the way, he proves himself to be the greatest kung fu-fighting pimp around.

Or, at least, that’s the idea.  As a movie, Dolemite is often considered to be an example of outsider art.  It’s a movie unlike any other and it is almost impossible to describe what it’s like to watch it for the first time.  In honor of Rudy Ray Moore’s birthday, here is one of the classic fight scenes from Dolemite:

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Kurt Russell Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, we wish a happy 69th birthday to the patron saint of all thing that are cool about the movies, the one and only Kurt Russell!

And here to help us do that are:

4 Shots From 4 Films

Used Cars (1980, directed by Robert Zemeckis)

Escape From New York (1981, directed by John Carpenter)

Stargate (1994, directed by Roland Emmerich)

Death Proof (2007, directed by Quentin Tarantino)

18 Days of Paranoia #4: The Falcon and the Snowman (dir by John Schlesinger)

The 1985 film, The Falcon and the Snowman, tells the story of two friends.  They’re both wealthy.  They’re both a little bit lost, with one of them dropping out the seminary and the other becoming a drug dealer who is successful enough to have a lot of money but inept enough to still be treated like a joke by all of other dealers.

Chris Boyce (Timothy Hutton) is the son of a former FBI agent (Pat Hingle).  He has a tense relationship with his father.  It’s obvious that the two have never really been sure how to talk to each other.  While his father is sure of both himself and his country, Chris is far more sensitive and quick to question.  While his father plays golf and attends outdoor barbecues, Chris becomes an expert in the sport of falconry and spends a lot of time obsessing about the state of the the world.  While his father defends Richard Nixon during the Watergate investigation, Chris sees it as evidence that America is a sick and corrupt country.  Because his father doesn’t want Chris sitting around the house all day, he pulls some strings to get Chris a job working at the “Black Vault,” where Chris will basically have the ability to learn about all sorts of classified stuff.

Daulton Lee (Sean Penn) was Chris’s best friend in school.  Daulton’s entire life revolves around cocaine.  He both sells and uses it.  He’s managed to make a lot of money but his addiction has also left him an erratic mess.  Daulton’s father wants to kick him out of the house.  Daulton’s mother continually babies him.  Chris and Daulton may seem like an odd pair of friends but they’re both wealthy, directionless, and have a difficult time relating to their fathers.  It somehow seems inevitable that these two would end up as partners.

Chris Boyce and Daulton Lee, together …. THEY SOLVE CRIMES!

No, actually, they don’t.  Instead, they end up betraying their country.  (Boooo!  Hiss!  This guy’s a commie, traitor to our nation!)  After Chris discovers that the CIA has been interfering in the elections of America’s allies (in this case, Australia), he decides to give information to the Russians.  Since Daulton already has experience smuggling drugs over the southern border, Boyce asks Lee to contact the KGB the next time that he’s in Mexico.  Despite being a neurotic and paranoid mess, Lee manages to do just that.

Of course, as Chris soon comes to discover, betraying your country while working with a greedy drug addict is not as easy as it seems.  While Chris wants to eventually get out of the treason game, marry his girlfriend (Lori Singer), and finish up college, Daulton wants to be James Bond.  The Russians, meanwhile, soon grow tired of having to deal with Lee and start pressuring Chris to deal with them directly….

And it all goes even further downhill from there.

Based on a true story, The Falcon and the Snowman tells the story of how two seemingly very different young men managed to basically ruin their lives.  Boyce’s naive idealism and Lee’s drug-fueled greed briefly makes them a powerful duo but they both quickly discover that betraying your country isn’t as a simple as they assumed.  For one thing, once you’ve done it once, it’s impossible to go back to your normal life.  As played by Hutton and Penn, Chris and Daulton are two very interesting characters.  Boyce is full of righteous indignation and sees himself as being a hero but the film hints that he’s mostly just pissed off at his Dad for never understanding him or caring that much about falconry.  Daulton, meanwhile, is a lunatic but he seems to be aware that he’s a lunatic and that makes his oddly likable.  At times, it seems like even he can’t believe that Chris was stupid enough to depend on him.  The film provides a convincing portrait of two men who, because of several impulsive decisions, find themselves in over their heads with no possibility of escape.

The Falcon and the Snowman is an entertaining and occasionally thought-provoking time capsule of a different age.  If the film took place in 2020, Daulton would be hanging out with the Kardashians and Chris would probably be too busy working for the Warren campaign to spy for America’s enemies.  If only the two of them had been born a few decades later, all of this could have been of avoided.

Previous Entries In The 18 Days of Paranoia:

  1. The Flight That Disappeared
  2. The Humanity Bureau
  3. The Privates Files Of J. Edgar Hoover