Kevin: We spent Part 1 of our “Action Jackson” Round Table analyzing the tactics of the “Invisible Men,” the most ironically named group of assassins in history, marveling at Jackson’s ability to outrun speeding cars and punch through windshields, and enjoying a delicious King Cobra Malt Liquor, the drink of choice for union leaders about to get blown up by grenade launchers.
I wanted to kick off Part 2 with a shout out to casting director Karen Rea and associates, as “Action Jackson” is packed with great performances, from the main roles to the lower-level thugs all the way down to the background extras. Take these two guys who show up randomly in the background of the police station, have zero lines, and yet almost steal the movie:
Mike: Those two dudes from the station are so great. One is straight out of a Beastie Boys video and the other is Weird Al’s stunt double. I’m serious about writing a movie starring these two, but not as partners; I’d want to write one movie with two completely separate story lines up until the last 10 minutes, when they reunite and thwart the enemy, played by Dauber from “Coach”!
Before I even get back to the movie itself, let’s take a look at the box for the “Action Jackson” VHS from back in the day. It’s basically a porno. Jackson is boning Vanity right on the back cover!
Kevin: Holy shit, in that photo on the back Carl even looks like he wants to fuck me, and he could have, as much as he wanted, in as many different … Anyway, I’m glad in the description they made sure to note that Sharon Stone was previously in “Irreconcilable Differences,” as I’m sure if anyone was waffling about whether to rent this back in the day, that information would have convinced them to finally pull the trigger. Also, according to the box the movie is apparently in color, which is good to know.
CJ: I also miss the days when the back of the box not only described the movie, but also every single thing that happens in it as well! Surprises be damned. Also it’s apparently “This year’s Lethal Weapon,” except the main character doesn’t have suicidal tendencies or a dead wife. Also no partner. It does remind you to “get ready for action.” Yup, you’re right Mike, it’s a porn.
Mike: Speaking of porn, let’s all unzip our flies in honor of Vanity, one of the most sensual women of the decade:
In the film she plays a whore and a heroin addict named Sydney. Who knows what this character was supposed to be in the original draft, because I’m pretty certain in Vanity’s case the producers wrote in that story line because she was actually on heroin and walking all bow-legged when she showed up to play the part! Regardless, I applaud the production for giving us, the audience, exactly what we all desperately needed, a plausible situation where it would be entirely possible for any one of us to get Vanity into bed willingly. You didn’t need Action Jackson’s body or Dellaplane’s millions if you had $10 worth of smack in your pocket!
Kevin: And yet as much as I love this movie, Jackson spends what seems like 30 minutes of our patience and goodwill for his character constantly rebuffing Vanity’s attempts to fuck him.
CJ: Whereas Dellaplane nails both Sharon Stone and Vanity. Let us not overlook how incredibly impressive this is. What other character has such range with the ladies, yet we’re supposed to be rooting against him? It also makes me think of two things. First, how the hell did Prince bag Vanity (See Anthony’s explanation below)? And second, Prince sucks, I’m glad he’s dead.
Anthony: Vanity obviously gets to perform two contractually-agreed-upon songs in this movie. She could have changed the setting on a router saw for all I care, I’d watch her do anything in this era. She’s so beautiful she kicks a drug habit cold turkey in two days and doesn’t look like Pookie at any time. Doesn’t it feel like her complaints to Dellaplane about him giving her a record deal are her saying what she really wanted to say to Prince all her life?
Mike: Right after that performance they have this great exchange:
Vanity: “I expected a standing ovation.”
Dellaplane: “You’re getting one.”
He’s talking about his dick! I love Dellaplane! Why can’t this movie be called “Action Dellaplane”?
CJ: A couple of other lines when they get back to her apartment that make no sense whatsoever:
Dellaplane to Vanity: “This is supposed to be a girl’s best friend.”
(Pulls out needle)
Me: Who has ever said that?
Dellaplane: “Give me two good reasons why I’d say all those things.”
(Vanity pulls out her breasts)
I take that one back. That was awesome.
Kevin: Let’s not forget that when they first get back to her apartment Vanity is like, “I saw your wife in the paper last week … are you gonna tell her about me?” To which Dellaplane responds, “Why would I do a thing like that? You know I never mix business with pleasure.” God Dellaplane rules!
Speaking of which, this is probably a good time to discuss the man, the myth, the legend that is Peter Dellaplane, a true villain who, as we’ve discussed, is a much more appropriate choice to lead the “Suicide Squad.”
Dellaplane is one of those bad guys like the dude in “Beverly Hills Cop” who do nothing but look and act evil at all times, but everybody except the hero is shocked at the mere notion they may be up to no good. Reminds me of a bit Norm MacDonald did about how weird it is now to read the original “Dracula” novel and everyone in it is all, “You think Count Dracula is doing what? That doesn’t sound like the Count Dracula I know!”
What should have given Dellaplane’s evilness away is the fact that he wins the city’s “Man of the Year” award. Anytime someone in an action movie wins some type of “Man of the Year” honor you can assume the next scene will show him distributing PCP-laced cocaine to the local preschool. And considering that less than a week after receiving his honor, Dellaplane murders his wife, is revealed to have murdered — actually exploded is more accurate — a number of his rivals, and is gunned down during his own party while trying to shoot up his mistress with heroin, I’d say the Detroit Chamber of Commerce should do a little better job vetting their candidates next year.
Finally, I laughed my ass off when, right before killing Stone, Dellaplane enters his mansion after a long hard day of work and his butler immediately presents him with a handgun like he was offering him caviar off a tray, adding, “Your .357 sir, it’s been cleaned and ported.” Once again this is obviously perfectly normal, there is nothing suspicious about this pillar of the Detroit community whatsoever.
CJ: Did anyone else enjoy the scene where Sharon Stone runs to Dellaplane in his car because she really needs to talk to him about something important, and his immediate reaction is to stay on the phone and roll up the window as the car drives away? Are we SURE he’s the bad guy?
Kevin: Yes when Dellaplane rolls up his window and drives off while his wife is bugging him it’s secretly a victory for men everywhere who’ve ever wanted to do that when they were in a hurry.
Anthony: I agree, when Dellaplane drives away from her as she’s pleading with him it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, and I can’t look at Sharon Stone seriously again after that. Also, in the same year as this she was also in “Above The Law,” and all I can say is she hit the gym in between productions.
Mike: Back to the plot: After Jackson tracks Sydney down and she is serenading him at the nightclub, how does he happen to have the best seat in the house? She seems like a popular act and it’s a hip place with lots of people. Is it just because he’s the famous Action Jackson, or are you telling me he showed up and immediately got front row center just like that? If I was in there it would be a $75 cover charge, and I’d be standing so far back that the show would be over before the sound got to me.
CJ: Yeah and I don’t buy that everyone knows who Action Jackson is. If there’s one thing “Tango & Cash” taught me, it’s that real cops are always on the front page of the newspaper:
Kevin: CJ is right that the one 80’s cliché this movie is missing is the scene where Jackson, possibly while chugging a bottle of bourbon in his apartment, looks over all his newspaper clippings with headlines like “Jackson Busts 3rd Terror Cell This Week” and “Detroit Throws Parade for Action Jackson” and “Jackson Spied at Romantic Dinner with Whitney Houston.” Weirdly in these movies the heroes also for some reason keep the bad headlines too, like “Disgraced: Former Hero Jackson Stripped of Badge.” Not sure if they are gluttons for punishment or just weird OCD-type completists.
In looking at the fake headlines from “Tango & Cash” I noticed the one on the right says “Ask Not What the Critics Say,” which seems awfully defensive considering your movie hasn’t even come out yet.
I do love how “Action Jackson” realizes that its plot is getting too convoluted, so it just has Jackson go to a black hairstylist who apparently knows everything about the entire conspiracy. How and why does she have this information? Who gives a shit, let’s get back to the action. Also Jackson almost gets killed looking for informant Papa Doc, who it turns out is already dead and deprived of his “frick and frack.” Apparently this is information that Jackson’s hotel manager friend already knew as well, so apparently the entire neighborhood is way on the ball on this compared to the Detroit police force.
Mike: Then at some point, and I literally don’t remember why, Jackson and Sydney go into a pool hall where the mere mention of a man almost gets Jackson castrated. Immediately outside of this rough and tumble Detroit pool hall in a shitty part of town is an all-white doo wop group singing simply for the joy of it.
Anthony: I think Jackson should get extra credit for discovering and beating up the Manson-like crew in the pool hall. Granted he didn’t kill them or arrest them … on second thought let’s say he broke even. But these zealots appear to cut people’s testicles off every other day like it’s nothing. Is it just me or should someone maybe shut that place down? If Dee the hairstylist keeps it up they’ll put her ovaries in a jar.
And what brilliance is Dee? We don’t have any way to get Jackson the information he needs, so let’s bring in the duh ex machina in the form of a cigarette-smoking barber that knows EVERYTHING he needs to set up the final confrontation. Oh and she likes words that begin with “de,” so we can explain her name … there’s some writing huh?
Another “Predator” cameo: Every time I see Sonny Landham I think of him in “48 Hours.” And he scared the shit out of me with that smile. Still does.
Also, the industrial park where Vanity leads that guy from the bar looks a lot like the “Robocop” set at the end. Tell me I’m wrong. (Kevin: Both movies set in Detroit and about the police force, but one takes place in the future. Perhaps we have a Marvel shared universe thing going on here: “Robocop 4,” where Murphy thaws out a frozen Action Jackson to help stop Peter Dellaplane’s evil son Sean.)
When Dellaplane says they’ll frame Jackson by having Gamble wear his red shirt, because “To most of my guests … you all look alike,” I nodded in agreement. Score one for bad guy who is not a racist but has friends and colleagues who are. He may be a scumbag … but he doesn’t see color damn it!
Kevin: This leads to the scene when a shirtless Jackson is rescued by Sydney’s bodyguard, where we get yet another demonstration of that 80’s movie trope that if you get punched and fall backward into an electrical box, you will immediately get electrocuted and catch on fire. I feel like if this was really the case there would have been a lot more lawsuits back in the day.
The action climax occurs at a party that Dellaplane is throwing for the union boss he is about to assassinate. No one seems to find it at all weird that Dellaplane is still throwing this party at his mansion the day after his wife was found brutally murdered. In fact when people come up to him they are way more concerned that they had to park their own cars. Maybe Dellaplane is a good Man of the Year winner since the rest of the city’s elite seem to be even more cold and sociopathic than him.
CJ: Kevin brings up an interesting point about Dellaplane throwing a party the day after his wife is murdered. It’s also weird how no one asks him about her either. I imagine it would have gone like this:
Senator: “Where’s your lovely wife?”
Dellaplane: “She had to go change, she had a hole in her shirt.”
Dellaplane (mumbles): “Yeah … a bullet hole.”
Senator: “What was that?”
Dellaplane: “I didn’t say anything. She’s not dead. And I definitely didn’t start making out with her after I shot her.”
Anthony: Finally we get to the great set piece where Jackson drives the Halley (1987 Pontiac Fiero with body kit) into the bodyguard and then up the stairs, around a corner of the hallway, and through the bedroom door of a mansion to fight Dellaplane. Absolutely amazing sequence! I love every part of this!
Never mind the 1987 Pontiac Fiero has the clearance of three pieces of construction paper at most! Never mind the car would have to turn a 90-degree corner in a hallway. Never mind crashing through the door not knowing what or, more importantly for a cop, who is behind the door. Jackson proves here that combined with driving a car at a brick wall at 90 mph to get information out of Vanity, he is a fucking maniac behind the wheel:
Never give this man an unmarked car, a patrol vehicle, or even a quarter to play “Pole Position.”
Mike: What I don’t get though is that when the shit has officially hit the fan for Dellaplane, why is he still trying to shoot heroin into Sydney? Action Jackson is driving a car THROUGH YOUR HOUSE at full speed, I think the portion of the ruse where Sydney OD’s and you’re above suspicion has passed. Just shoot her in the face and escape! Or better yet, save yourself the time and escape without doing that. What’s the worst that’s going to happen if she survives?
Maybe he was actually going to try and have sex with her one last time like he threatened, since he only seems to bang Sydney after she’s comatose from the drugs. Personally, I’d like her to be awake, it’s kinda the point! Then again I’m not a titan of industry so what do I know about power games.
CJ: I also never understand wanting to fight mano y mano. Probably honor, but fuck that, I’d rather be alive. Think about the next day at the office:
Cop friend: “Hey CJ, heard you had a wild one last night.”
Me: “Sure did Bob-o! Francois DeRapey had my girl tied up, didn’t know what to do. Lucky for me though he threw his gun down and offered to fight.”
Cop friend: “What did you do?”
Me: “Well I never agreed to throw my gun down, so I shot him. Boy was he peeved.”
Cop friend: “Oh.”
Me: “Yep.” (shuffles papers as credits roll)
This all leads to my big conclusion. You remember Gamble? The guy who kills Robert Davi with a COD and enjoys it too much, then tries to run down Action Jackson in the cab only to crash through a window, and THEN returns at the refinery, always looking slick as shit? I fully believe he was the real Action Jackson.
Kevin: Yeah for a movie in which Al Leong is part of the henchmen crew, Gamble is the surprising MVP of this squad. Although you know what that means: Bonus Al Leong! (And fourth-straight appearance by him in a Round Table film: “Lethal Weapon,” “Last Boy Scout,” and “Die Hard.”)
Back to the ending, I forgot another one of my favorite lines, delivered by the white half of the cop duo from the beginning and played by Biff from “Back to the Future,” which is the only reason I can think of why he is billed higher in the credits over guys like Bill Duke. In looking at Dellaplane’s corpse he remarks, “That’s one dead piece of shit car builder.”
Mike: After the dust settles and Dellaplane is taking the big dirt nap thanks to Jackson’s handy work, Capt. Armbruster shows up on the scene to “supervise.” The incredibly understanding captain immediately promotes Action Jackson back to lieutenant and gives him the rest of the night so he can cornhole Sydney until his cock falls off. It’s this post-credit-sequence boning that is probably what graces the back of the VHS box.
Kevin: Yes Vanity finally shows that she’s the type of woman worthy of being fucked by Action Jackson when she tells him that she’s officially decided not to be a heroin addict anymore and is “cold turkey.” And as someone like Dr. Drew could tell you, when a severe drug addict claims they are fixed after less than a day of sobriety, you should immediately start settling down and have kids with them. Have you fun you two!
Well that wraps it up for our two-part Round Table on “Action Jackson.” Now let’s get going on a script for a prequel showing Peter Dellaplane’s remarkable rise through the Detroit car industry through a mixture of hard work, tough negotiating, heroin, and grenade launchers. Until then, play us out Pointer Sisters …