You can tell right away that Action Jackson is going to be an awesome movie because both the actors in the first scene were in Lethal Weapon, and one of them (Mary Ellen Trainor, wife of Robert Zemeckis) was also in Die Hard. Then the American terrorist from Die Hard (the one who bet on the Lakers) rappels through the window along with a bunch of other ski-mask-wearing villains and shoots the dude from Lethal Weapon (he's the guy forced to hold the lighter under Mr. Joshua's arm) with a grenade launcher, sending him crashing out another window and plummeting 20 stories like a flaming dude-shaped meteorite until he crashes through the glass roof of a five-star restaurant.
Action Jackson begins as it means to continue: With lots of fire and lots of That Guys, Late Eighties Action Movie Division.
You kind of have to expect that from a Joel Silver movie, though. Back then, he liked to use the same That Guys (and the occasional That Chick) over and over, so if you're a big fan of that period, every movie is like a high school reunion. In Action Jackson, I counted three Predator alums (Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, and Sonny Landham—no Jesse the Body, sorry), four Lethal Weapons (the two from the opening scene, Danny Glover's cop buddy who thinks he's an eighties man, and Al Leong), an incredible six Die Hards (the two in the first scene, Robert Davi, the guy who says "Send in the car," Argyle, and Al Leong again), and a couple of repeats who were also in Commando (Duke, the "Send in the car" guy). As a bonus, there are also two from Weird Science (Grandpa and the raspy-voiced black guy who says "She kicked you in your nuts?"). If you know what the hell I'm talking about, congratulations, you're in your thirties and you have steadily watched the world get less awesome with every passing year. I turned 31 today, so let's all raise our glasses to an era when men were men but you couldn't tell it by the hairstyles.
Action Jackson was one of my favorites from way back when, for obvious reasons. I mean, some guy gets fireballed in the first two minutes, then it cuts to a scene where Biff from Back to the Future is a Detroit cop who can't stop lying to his partner about how much pussy he gets. They nab this pursesnatcher (one of the black guys from Tour of Duty. Don't worry, the other one shows up later) and start telling him about Sergeant Jericho "Action" Jackson, how he was created by NASA to be the first man to walk on the moon without a spacesuit, how some perp he was interrogating gnawed off his own hand like a trapped skunk or marmot, how his father was a sasquatch, etc. Your classic "How badass is this guy?" speech, pioneered by the famous "He can eat things that would make a billygoat puke" monologue from First Blood. So when the pursesnatcher accidentally spills coffee on Action's desk, he faints. It's that kind of movie. One minute a dude is exploding, the next it's Three's Company-style slapstick. It's the typical anything-goes approach of stuntman-turned-director Craig "Stone Cold" Baxley.
Anyway, there may or may not be some plot in here at some point. All we really need to know is that Craig T. Nelson is a big rich jerk and Action Jackson is going to kill him. We know that because Craig T. is cheating on his wife (Sharon Stone in what, as far as I can tell, was her first of at least 36 nude scenes) with Vanity, one of Prince's old protégés. He keeps her happy by making her take her clothes off and shooting heroin into her thighs without looking for a vein or anything. She eventually became a Born Again in real life, so I'm sure she's not real proud of this scene. That or the fact that her stage name was one of the seven deadly sins. Oh well. Better than Sloth, I guess.
So people and property get blown up, Action races a car on foot, Craig T. gets a karate lesson, somebody says "Hi! I'm Mr. Ed!" completely out of context, and Action gets captured by these gay thugs who have a collection of jarred testicles in their cabinet. Then, to make up for that lame Mr. Ed crack, Action shoots the Die Hard guy in the chest with a grenade launcher and says "Barbecue, huh? How do you like your ribs?" But before that, he throws Sonny Landham out a window and into another window on the other side of the alley, which is just the kind of whimsical twist on a classic stunt that makes Baxley the most underrated action director of all time.
Then Action and his assortment of sidekicks crash Craig T.'s party for some wacky violence before Action drives a red sports car into Craig T.'s house, up his surprisingly wide staircase, and right into his bedroom, where they have a kung fu fight. It's nothing special (I'd swear that Craig T.'s leg isn't attached to his body for some of the kicks), but every now and again you remember that there's a sports car parked in a bedroom, which never stops being funny. So after Action splatters Craig T. all over the wall, his captain (Bill Duke, obviously) promotes him to lieutenant, even though he's wanted for murder and has no evidence to clear his name. All he did was drive a sports car into a rich dude's bedroom and shoot him twice in the chest. I guess that's how they roll in Detroit.
This movie was clearly meant to give Carl Weathers an action franchise of his own after more than a decade of sidekickery, but alas, it never happened. The lack of Action Jackson 2: Detroit Muscle pisses me off even more than the lack of Remo Williams 2: The Adventure Continues. But that's life, I guess: one fucking disappointment after another.