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Action U.S.A. (1988)

Directed by John Stewart
Imperial Entertainment VHS

Two FBI agents, Osborn & Panama, rescue Carmen, a charming young lady, from the clutches of some very bad guys. Carmen’s boyfriend was an undercover FBI agent who knew about a stash of diamonds hidden somewhere in the desert. Soon, bad guys and good guys galore are all after this stashed cache of gems. There follows more shootouts, car chases, bar brawls and explosions then the average viewer can count. When John Stewart stacks the action, it stays stacked, to misquote R.O.T.O.R. Another Texas special from this time period.

Action U.S.A.! What on Earth might this film be about, I wondered as I stared at the VHS box? My first thought was something along the lines of Stunt Rock. That movie is a beautiful love letter to stunts and rock that I have watched more than twenty times. There’s no real plot to that film, though. It’s mainly people hanging around for three or four days, playing rock and engaging in stunts. Would Action U.S.A. be like that? The title is vague but also promises a lot. But, man-o-man, does it deliver. I went into this film expecting nothing. I came away having had the most fun watching a film in ages.

It’s action. Pounds and pounds of Grade A Texas-style action. That’s what makes it damn near perfect. We start off with a souped-up Corvette peeling through the streets of Waco. We follow that with a crazy stunt involving a man hanging from a helicopter for ages. Then, explosions, bar brawls, etc. kick in. There are brief pauses for character scenes but they never slow down the almost constant action. I let out several “Wows!” during the film. I laughed out loud. I smiled, I cheered, I booed. I wished I was watching this in a theater.

And, just at the point when you can’t stand it anymore, Ross Hagen and William Smith show up. Ross plays the evil Drago and he can still kick your ass simply by looking at you. He is teamed up with Hoke Howell, one of his cohorts from The Sidehackers/ Five The Hard Way. William Smith is a sketchy FBI guy whose secretary was also in Sidehackers. So, there’s a bit of a reunion feeling there, which I liked. Cameron Mitchell shows up for two disconnected, confusing scenes. But, if you’ve watched enough films from the 1980s, you’d expect Mitchell to be in there somewhere. Luckily, the other actors are as awesome as the super veterans. Panama is charming and a little wacky. Osborne is a tough guy with a twinkle in his eye. Carmen is delightful. Most of the time she is clearly having fun with the FBI agents. And, by extension, I was having fun too.

My main worry was that, if the film was mostly action, it might be a bit on the lame side. Just because you load your film with action, doesn’t mean you can construct a decent action scene. It’s not as easy to do as one would think. Sighs of relief, please! The plentiful action on display is well done. The stunts are thrilling. The car chases kickass. And the explosions are massive. They even blow up a camper, for Pete’s sake! If you like fun action films that never take themselves too seriously, Action U.S.A. truly rules.