A union official (Ed O'Ross) is in his office with his secretary late one night and they have reached the end of their day's work so he tries to persuade her to go back to his place, but she refuses. Suddenly, the windows of the office are blown in by three masked assassins who kill the secretary and leave the official emptying his gun into thin air. Soon he is dead, outsmarted by a team who have no qualms about using murder to get their way - but who is behind them? One man who will soon be taking an interest is a police sergeant they call Action Jackson (Carl Weathers), and you don't want to mess with him...
African-American movie stars in Hollywood were underepresented in lead action roles in the eighties, mostly ending up in supporting parts or more unfortunately as cannon fodder, you know the sort, the affable best friend who is murdered by the villains so the hero can take revenge. How unlike the seventies, when blaxploitation was king: all right, it may have been overseen mainly by white movie producers, but the black talent was certainly there on the screen. So how nice to turn to this effort, which placed Carl Weathers, best known for boxing his way into your hearts as Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies, in the opportunity to shine here as the undisputed star.
Although it seems as if producer Joel Silver was not entirely sure that the world would accept a black star in a movie such as this unless he was making us laugh, fine, there were always one-liners in those white action stars' films, but with this Weathers was verging on finding himself in a spoof at times. Lots of times, in fact, with for instance one sequence devoted to him talking his way out of having his testicles cut off by incomprehensible gangsters. Luckily for us, he was more than capable of both acting out the laughs and the violence, and it would have been nice to say that this set him on a career of glossy shoot-'em-ups, but it didn't turn out that way, sad to say.
It is at least ten minutes before we are introduced to Jackson, and if you're not sure of his name then the cast helpfully repeat it about fifteen billion times, along with helpfully explaining his nickname. The character's reputation is inflated to enormous size, but when we do meet him he comes across as a decent chap all round and not one to dole out the beatings simply for the sake of it. Unlike his main antagonist, the powerful businessman Peter Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson), who thinks nothing of breaking his kung fu instructor's arm or blowing up someone who is in the way of his financial interests, altogether making it so blatantly obvious he was the bad guy that Jackson looks positively genius for realising, unlike his bosses who remain predictably oblivious. There's only one man who can stop this marauding, evil business bully boy.
And we know who that is, don't we? Weathers proves himself most agreeable in typical eighties action invincibility, whether he's firing off quips (always an important talent in films like these) or jumping over a whole car after being taken for a ride on its roof by a would-be hitman - he even throws one miscreant out of a window, across the alley and through another window (!). To increase the celebrity power, Jackson gets to romance Vanity, playing a singer who Dellaplane hooks on heroin, so our hero must win her heart as well as getting her to go cold turkey, and the villain's wife is played by Sharon Stone before she got really famous. Shazza rumbles her screen husband's wickedness, which sees her come to harm with Jackson framed for it, so with crushing predictability he has to go on the run with the singer, who has a contract out on her. No awards for originality were handed over to this film, but it amuses enough, mainly thanks to Weathers. Music by Herbie Hancock and Michael Kamen.