Film Review: Action Jackson (1988)

Release Date: February 12th, 1988
Directed by: Craig R. Baxley
Written by: Robert Reneau
Music by: Herbie Hancock, Michael Kamen
Cast: Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, Vanity, Sharon Stone, Thomas F. Wilson, Robert Davi, Bill Duke, Jack Thibeau, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams, De’Voreaux White, Miguel Nunez, Al Leong, Sonny Landham, Mary Ellen Trainor

Lorimar Film Entertainment, Silver Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[turning a flamethrower on a bad guy] How do you like your ribs?” – Action Jackson

This was a film that was supposed to be the first in a franchise. That never happened and that could be due to the film being critically panned and for it being absolutely ridiculous and the type of cheese that induces a wee bit of cringe. But I still dig the hell out of Carl Weathers in this and it was cool seeing him step out from behind more famous action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But this also was born from Weathers’ involvement in the Schwarzenegger starring Predator, as he and producer Joel Silver loved blaxploitation flicks. Silver told Weathers to come up with something and its that idea that became the basis for this film.

The plot is pretty simple, Jericho “Action” Jackson is a no nonsense cop that loves the ladies and hates yuppie scum that kills and destroys for their own selfish, greedy means. In this film, the scum is played by Coach star Craig T. Nelson. And we even get to see Coach do some kung fu trickery.

Similar to a Bond film and other films with macho gun wielding heroes, there are two hot chicks. In this we get a very young Sharon Stone, just before she reached superstardom, as well as Vanity, who was super popular at the time due to her relationship with Prince. We also get boobage from both, which from my perspective, is a strong plus.

But this film is also like a who’s who of cool character actors from the era. We get Bill Duke, De’Voreaux White, Miguel Nunez, Robert Davi, Thomas F. Wilson, Sonny Landham, Chino “Fats” Williams and ’80s action star/stuntman Al Leong.

Add in a sweet score by Herbie Hancock and you’ve just got a cool motion picture.

Overall, this is an action heavy film but it was the ’80s and all we really wanted back then was good, high octane, power fantasy escapism. You know, back in the day before that stuff was frowned upon and deemed as toxic masculinity, politically incorrect and insensitive. You know, back when people were happier and most of us got along regardless of political or social affiliation.

I really do enjoy the action in this and while it can be an ’80s cheeseball extravaganza in parts, who really gives a shit? Action Jackson actually drives a Ferrari-like supercar into Coach’s mansion, up the stairs and then smashes it through his bedroom door for the big final fight. Is that dumb? Of course it is! But that’s the appeal, people!

I can’t say that this has aged well but it might not have aged well in its current year. It’s noticeably more corny than similar films but I do like the humor, its lightheartedness and its insanity.

Action Jackson isn’t an ’80s action magnum opus by any means but it was a pretty enthralling and amusing flick with Carl Weathers being a badass, Craig T. Nelson being an evil shithead and lots of other actors that were at the height of cool at the time.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Cobra, Lethal Weapon, The Last Dragon, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Firewalker and Hurricane Smith.

Film Review: Death Wish (1974)

Also known as: The Sidewalk Vigilante (working title)
Release Date: July 24th, 1974
Directed by: Michael Winner
Written by: Wendell Mayes
Based on: Death Wish by Brian Garfield
Music by: Herbie Hancock
Cast: Charles Bronson, Hope Lange, Vincent Gardenia, William Redfield, Stuart Margolin, Steven Keats, Jack Wallace, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Guest, Olympia Dukakis

Dino De Laurentiis Corporation, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Nothing to do but cut and run, huh? What else? What about the old American social custom of self-defense? If the police don’t defend us, maybe we ought to do it ourselves.” – Paul Kersey

While I still haven’t seen the 2018 remake of this film, I wanted to at least revisit the originals. I’ll probably check out the Bruce Willis starring remake pretty soon but it’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen the original Paul Kersey clean up the mean streets of the United States.

In this, the first film of five, he cleans up the streets of New York City. He moves around from city to city in each film, as he can’t stay put in one place for too long.

Anyway, the film follows Paul Kersey, played by Chales Bronson, a man’s man. He is a pretty liberal and pacifistic guy until his wife is murdered and daughter raped and attacked in their home by vagrant, criminal scum. Kersey, unable to accept the failure of the system, becomes a vigilante and sparks a one man war on crime. However, his actions inspire the people of New York City to stand up and defend themselves as well. Soon, city officials want to put a lid on it but they kind of like Kersey, as crime rates are dropping and it looks good for the people in power.

This is a pretty political and social film for its day, as crime in New York City in the 1970s was at an all-time high and people were legitimately scared just walking down the street. I kind of wonder how the 2018 remake will address these issues, as Hollywood hates controversy these days, unless they’re reminding us of how much they hate Republicans, especially our current president. But I digress.

Charles Bronson is known for being a badass in a ton of films but this might be the best he’s ever been. It certainly evolved into his most famous role but playing a character five times will do that.

This is a gritty, realistic film. Bronson isn’t some invincible warrior, he is an everyday man, in over his head. A man with flaws and inexperience who fucks up because of that. But it’s his drive and ambition that really makes the character work. He is kind of driven by a type of mania, not caring that the law is on to him. He just commits to the bit, no matter what repercussions he may face. It’s refreshing to see, all these years later, because nowadays, everyone is a f’n John Wick or Frank Castle.

This first Death Wish movie is the best of the lot. But in saying that, it isn’t my personal favorite even though it’s the superior film. I really love the third one but I’ll get into that when I review it in the future.

But overall, this is a solid ’70s action flick with a giant barrel of testosterone concentrate.

Also, it is the film debut of Jeff Goldblum and has very early roles for Christopher Guest and Olympia Dukakis.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequels and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Release Date: July 17th, 2017 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Luc Besson
Written by: Luc Besson
Based on: Valérian and Laureline by Pierre Christin, Jean-Claude Mézières
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer

EuropaCorp, Fundamental Films, BNP Paribas Fortis Film Finance, Universum Film, Gulf Film, River Road Entertainment, Belga Films, STX Entertainment, 137 Minutes

Review:

“I didn’t come here to get a makeover.” – Laureline

Going into this, I had no expectations either way. Part of me wanted this to be a true spiritual successor to Luc Besson’s classic The Fifth Element, which is twenty years old this year. Another part of me sort of expected this to follow the trend of Besson’s modern work, which has been hit or miss but mostly miss. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is both of these things.

Is it on the level of The Fifth Element? No. But it does channel that film in its subject matter, visual flair, bizarreness and creativity.

The film starts out strong and really gets you into the spirit of what it’s trying to do. Unfortunately, once the main actors show up, it takes you out of the picture. I don’t necessarily blame them but the quirky dialogue that they had to work with was pretty awful. They also completely lacked chemistry and just looked like two fish out of water when they were forced together. It was like watching two young kids trying to be witty and cool while trying to be into each other but you knew they were probably just dating because of social pressure from kids cooler than them.

I’m not sure why but Dane DeHaan just doesn’t do anything for me. People seem to love this guy but I don’t get it. Most of the time, he talks like he is trying to channel some sort of cool inner bad ass but it just sounds like a teenager trying to act tough. His voice sounds like it isn’t even confident in its delivery. It’s like he’s a weakling playing the part of a bad ass and that he’s terrified that he’ll be exposed at any second for not being a cool tough guy. It brings me back to when he played Harry Osborn a.k.a. the Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I kind of just want to smack him and tell him to go to his room. And if you want to compare this to The Fifth Element, he doesn’t have a tenth of the presence or personality of Bruce Willis.

Cara Delevingne is better than DeHaan in this but she still needs more experience before taking over the reigns of a film. However, my favorite part of this movie was when DeHaan was briefly taken out of the picture and Delevingne took over in an effort to find him and rescue him. I’d actually prefer her in a solo film, to be completely honest.

The biggest problem with this movie is not the acting, dialogue or the directing. What killed this movie for me is that it seems like a collage of really cool visual shit mixed up in a nonsensical way. The story was all over the place and just seemed like it was there to string together a bunch of random scenes that would have worked better as shorts or music videos. The plot was confusing and hard to follow throughout most of the picture. When you get to the end, there is a lot of over-explanation as to what is going on in an attempt to make sense out of the two hour mess before the big climax.

Valerian is absolutely beautiful and imaginative but that is all it is. It is a film that showcases so much potential but fails to do anything with it. It was poorly written, poorly directed, poorly acted and poorly executed. Even Clive Owen and his iron gravitas could not save the picture.

And ultimately, the best thing about the movie is the opening sequence which features humans and aliens coming together over generations, set to the tune of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

I also find it odd that this film completely whitewashes the Avatar aliens and no one cares.

Rating: 5/10