Thursday, 1 September 2011

Ian Jacklin

If you’re a fan of action movies from the 1990s, the types of movies that starred Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Gary Daniels, Lorenzo Lamas, Jeff Wincott, Sasha Mitchell and Cynthia Rothrock, then the chances are you recognise the name or the face of Ian Jacklin.

Between 1991 and 1996, Jacklin starred or featured in more than 10 very modestly budgeted action movies. Among them were Ring of Fire (1991), Capital Punishment (1991), Final Impact (1992), Deadly Bet (1992), Blackbelt (1992), Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992), American Streetfighter (1992), Ring of Fire 2 (1993), Final Round (1994), Warrior of Justice (1996) and Sworn to Justice (1996).

The producer of Capital Punishment and American Streetfighter was David Hue (aka David Huey) and he must have liked what he saw in the young Canadian because it wasn’t long before The Jackal was making his action hero debut. As far as action movie titles go you can’t get much better than Expert Weapon (1993).

The film was written and directed by Steven Austin, who performed the same duties on American Streetfighter but seemed to leave the action genre behind afterward. This might suggest that it’s badly made, but while it has its flaws and is certainly a product of its time, it’s great fun.

This is a movie that introduces its hero as a cop killer facing the death penalty, a thug who urinates on a Bible; an act prompting a beating from the visiting Priest (Mel Novak). We’ve seen plenty of anti-heroes come and go but Adam Collins is something else.

The evolution of Collins into “The Expert Weapon” reflected Jacklin’s own transformation from villain to hero in the eyes of the audience. In most of the movies we’d seen him in up to this point he’d been the heavy, the muscle or the bad ass lead villain. Collins journey is an echo or outright rip-off of that of Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita (1990).

A pawn in a government project headed by one-time Flash Gordon Sam J. Jones, Collins goes through the usual trials and training montages on his way to becoming an elite government assassin. This includes encounters with a glamorous acting instructor played by Judy Landers.

When he’s unable to pull the trigger on the blind female companion of a target, Collins goes rogue, becoming protector and ultimately lover to the woman.

Jacklin’s a karate and kickboxing champion and more than capable in the fight scenes but the action highlight for me is when he kills Joe Estevez with a screwdriver. A memorable scene for an entirely different reason is the car chase. On the run from fellow assassins, the chase takes Collins from the town centre to a deserted landscape and then back again in a moment or two. Why? Apparently to accommodate an explosion (a money shot for the trailer) that would have been more costly if done in a built up area.

Urinating on Bibles (not something I’d condone personally), a kung fu fighting Priest, the death by screwdriver of Martin Sheen’s brother, a blind heroine as unconvincing as Jessica Alba in The Eye (David Moreau & Xavier Palud, 2008); there are a lot of great reasons to watch Expert Weapon, but it wasn’t Jacklin’s best movie.

His second as leading man has even more to recommend it. In Death Match (Joe Coppoletta, 1994), Jacklin was surrounded by genre icons. Martin Kove, Matthias Hues, Richard Lynch, Jorge Rivero, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Eric Lee and Steven Leigh all make this a film that Brett and Ty over at Comeuppance Reviews called "The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone, 2010) of its day." The cameo by Richard Lynch is particularly notable as he gives a long, irrelevant monologue highlighting the growing influence of Quentin Tarantino on filmmakers at this time.

Having made the transformation from villain to hero, Jacklin is 100% good guy as John Larson, a man prepared to stare death right in the face for the sake of his best friend. At the start of the movie, John and Nick (Nick Hill) go their separate ways and John rides for miles along the coast to start a new job, only to turn straight back when his new employer delivers the message that Nick’s in trouble.

Part of the “fight to the death” subgenre that Bloodsport (Newt Arnold, 1988) spurred on and Bloodsport 4 (Elvis Restaino, 1999) pretty much marked the demise of, Death Match follows a predictable heroes quest as John investigates his friend’s disappearance and schemes to enter the world of underground fighting when he finds he’s fallen prey to the villainous organisers.

A lot of fights (choreographed by Benny “The Jet” and Art Camacho) take place before anonymous wealthy spectators in Death Match, but only a handful of them involve Jacklin. As is typical in this genre, they merely help stretch the running time to the standard 90 mins. John prepares for combat by training with Benny “The Jet” and practicing in silhouette against a sunset.

Jacklin takes centre stage in the plot some twenty minutes in and does the All-American hero thing well but he’s totally overshadowed by his high profile co-stars and perhaps this explains why further starring roles were not forthcoming.

Martin Kove and Matthias Hues stand out in particular and it is their names and Hues’ imposing image that grace the film’s DVD cover. Hues provides the “Odd Job factor” as the muscle for Kove’s character, but unusually, Hues’ role is much more fleshed out than is typical. He doesn’t just grunt, flex and fight, he and Kove share the screen on equal terms as their characters are described as business partners. Both are involved in their own lengthy and fairly pointless subplot in which they take on other bad guys (Lynch and Rivero make their cameos) for underworld supremacy.

Death Match wasn’t Jacklin’s movie, it belonged to the bad guys and after his showdowns with Hues and Kove it was back to supporting roles. As the industry began to change, Jacklin’s career went in a different direction. After the likes of Bikini Traffic School (Gary Graver, 1998), he established himself as an independent digital filmmaker.

Since 2000, Jacklin has been Owner of Co-Dependent Pictures Inc., working as a Producer, Director, Editor and Camera Operator for videos with subjects as varied as real estate, music videos, events and weddings.

Once a champion in the ring and on screen, these days The Jackal is fighting for awareness of natural health. In 2007 he made a documentary called about alternative treatments for Cancer. To find out more about Jacklin and the cause he’s fighting for look him up on Facebook or visit his website.