TNT Jackson (Review)

TNT Jackson

Jeanne Bell as Diana “TNT” Jackson
Stan Shaw as Charlie
Pat Anderson as Elaine
Ken Metcalf as Sid
Directed by Cirio H. Santiago
Writing credits Ken Metcalf and Dick Miller

It’s the Seventies! Let’s get some Malaise and impeach Nixon! Disco down now! The Seventies is not complete without some Blaxploitation, so we got that too! Turn down your radio and it’s cranking out of the seventies hits of Stray, Patto, Bakerloo, Frumpy, Gnidrolog, Cressida, Gong, Budgie, Osibisa, Klaatu, Gypsy, Cactus, Audience, Mandrill, or whatever other rare Seventies songs you like, for it is time for action. Black action. Blaction! It’s Sista Blaction as our star is October 1969 Playboy Playmate of the Month Jeanne Bell, who is TNT Jackson, flying to Hong Kong to search for her missing brother. Jeanne Bell’s martial arts training seems to be entirely composed of the rehearsal scene, but she has a double ( a suspiciously male-looking double) who takes care of some of the problems. Afros abound, and Jeanne Bell takes up the sassy black girl quota entirely herself. “Hong Kong” (aka somewhere in the Philippines) seems to be populated with every kind of ruffian and rogue on the planet, giving us plenty of fight scenes. Cirio H. Santiago directs (previously seen here helming The Destroyers and Wheels of Fire) and one of the writers (the one who didn’t write himself into the movie) is Dick Miller, famous for being in Gremlins and The Terminator. Will this Kung-Fu Sista kick some butt and find her bro? Will she get drowned in a sea of afros? What scene from this film did Quentin Tarantino “homage” (rip off)? All these questions and more can be answered by reading onward!

Location: “Hong Kong.” A theater is playing a Chinese Dragon show while a Black Man and an Asian Man make a deal in the audience. Outside, the Black Man is accousted by a plethera of Black and Asian Gangstas, who quickly relieve the man of his ill-gotten pure drugs. The Black Man is then beaten around some more and punched through the scenery at the theater! We jumpcut to Jeanne Bell, who just arrived in HK at the airport and is taxi-hailing. She’s in search of her missing brother, who is in all likelihood the Black Man beaten around in the beginning of the film and is probably dead. But don’t tell her that, it’s a plot point for the middle of the movie! Her taxi won’t take her all the way where she wants to go, so she has to trot through a bad neighborhood. It looks like some projects in bad areas of any major US city, even though it’s some city in the Philippines. We watch as a woman is attacked by a man, only the man is killed by another guy who was wandering along. Jeanne Bell isn’t concerned with any of this, only watching events transpire, until a group of thugs decide they want to help her carry her suitcase, carry it back to their hideout and take all the valuables. TNT Jackson doesn’t take that kind of crap, and EXPLODES! No, wait, that was Jihad Jackson. TNT Jackson just unleashes her karate and kung fu on the baddies, showing off the smooth kung fu stylings of a Playboy Playmate, thus the sped up footage and clumsy legsweeps aren’t quite unnoticeable. Men are tossed through walls like rings tossed at a fair ringtoss game, except they all hit their mark, random walls. The last thug wields dual knives, but ends up with a broken arm care of TNT, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.

At the end of the fight, Elaine the Bad Guy’s Girl stops her car to give TNT a ride. Elaine presses for info and TNT sasses her back. TNT stops at the bar she was headed, looking for a man named Joe. She finds him, and he’s Chinese.

“Whoever heard of a Chinaman named Joe?”
“I’m only Chinese in body, but my mind’s Western.” — Joe

Ugh… First, I know at least one Chinese Guy named Joe. Second, “Chinaman?” I realize this is 1975, but still. I’m surprised Joe didn’t respond with “Whoever heard of a Negress named TNT?” because that would have been hilariously awful. TNT sent her brother some money at this bar, but he never came to pick it up. The mystery is not dwelt upon much longer, as some local goons start trouble in the bar, and TNT helps Joe kick their behinds, at least her male stunt double helps. Good thing TNT has such a big ‘Fro, you can barely tell she’s a burly man in all the shots where you can’t see her face. The film gets sped up regardless. Meanwhile, Stan Shaw walks into the bar to watch the action, he’s got an afro to rival any in this film. Stan Shaw went on to play a cop in Monster Squad and a security guy in Red Sun, but here he plays Charlie, who works for some drug dealers and was the guy in the opening scene beating the snot out of the Black Guy in the audience, who was probably TNT’s brother and is probably dead. So the eventual revelation of this later in the film isn’t much of a shock, since it was given away in the beginning like an episode of Columbo. Charlie is impressed with the explosive moves of this sassy sistah, so he asks:

“I think you’re a fantastic lady, what’s your line?”
“You name it, I do it!” — TNT

Oh, really? MuHahahahahahaha! Oh, wait… She was probably not talking about everything. Nevertheless, Charlie doesn’t get any ideas, He continues with such gems as:

“Baby, I don’t go favors. And when I give….I get!”

Super! Charlie works for Elaine, who is the girlfriend of the main bad guy, named Sid. Sid. What a lame villain name. It’s….the SID!!!! Naaargh! Why not just name the villain “Newton”? Anyway, the Serpentine Sid is preparing to bring a bunch of Heroin through the island. This is still a subplot, as Joe is out looking for information about TNT’s brother. He learns about the guy from the beginning of the movie and how he is dead. This ticks off two passing by henchmen of Satanic Sid’s, who decide to express their anger in bullet form. One of the henchmen has a ridiculous flannel outfit on that would make Al Borland from Home Improvement weep. He tops that with a beret and sunglasses. Joe kills the other goon, then grabs the machine gun he had and uses it to blow away Flannel Man. No more lumberjacking for him. Meanwhile, Elaine, Charlie, Slanderous Sid, and some random Chinese guy who’s name I didn’t catch but might be Ming are plotting. We also get some naked woman action, as they’re at the nightclub.

TNT is taking a bath. Shouldn’t that ruin dynamite? Anyway, Joe wanders in an tells her that her brother is dead. Her brother is named Stag Jackson. That sounds like a terrible porn name. For the bad guys, they have a drug shipment that night, but it gets interrupted by a ton of armed thugs, and a big gun battle follows. All of Scandalous Sid’s men are killed and the drugs stolen, so he’s pretty mad. Ming accuses Charlie in another episode of foreshadowing instead of shockingly revealing things later. Charlie instead says he wants to guard the next shipment, and he’ll get a group of the best guards in Hong Kong, to avoid problems of an inside job. At this point it’s shown that Elaine is working for someone else. Yes, she works for Mary Kay Cosmetics! Or the CIA, could be either one, the movie wasn’t that clear, as Mary Kay did plenty of anti-drug work in Hong Kong during the Seventies. Meanwhile, TNT is trying to find Charlie, but Joe won’t help her. Joe’s waitress does instead, so TNT ends up in Charlie’s dojo(?) where TNT and Charlie can spar so she tries to get a spot on his Drug Guarding squad. After beating him, Charlie takes her back to his place and lays his moves on her. That’s all he lays on her at that time. Back to earlier, Charlie runs a dojo? Or is he a star student at the dojo? Or should I stop caring at this point about making sense of some of this mess and just ride the ride? I’ll take option three!

Ming wants to kill TNT just because, but Elaine wants to wait until they know who she’s working for. Also, Charlie doesn’t let her on the drug protection squad. The deal goes down, in a cemetery. The cemetery deal is interrupted by…ZOMBIES!!!! RAAAaarGGH!!! BRRRAAAIII-IIINNS!! Wait, sorry, lie. Sadly, no zombies. TNT and Joe sneak around the deal, because they weren’t invited. Also, Elaine is sneaking around, but suddenly TNT and Joe are chasing her. The film seems to be missing the part where they spot her or something, but it keeps the part where TNT beats her down after a long fight. The fight was so long, we missed Charlie’s group getting hit, and all the drugs taken. Charlie claims he never saw the thieves before. Hmmm….this looks a little suspicious. Could Charlie be the real thief? Naw…that’s a bit too predictable, this film is full of the type of good writing that prevents such clichés! Especially since Charlie was seen earlier killing her brother and is soon to be her lover! Nope, this film would aim higher!

Elaine reveals to TNT that she’s a government agent, then saves TNT from being killed by Ming and Charlie by saying that they were together the whole time the drug heist went down. Or at least TNT is saved for two seconds, until Ming talks with Samplin’ Sid, who tells Ming to kill TNT anyway, because his buyers are going to go elsewhere. The gang sneaks into TNT’s room at night, and before they kill her, they rip open her nightie, giving us a shot of what made Jeanne Bell Miss October 1969! A rape is about to happen, but TNT is far too sassy: “I never made it with a chink before!” Hey, it’s some of that good old fashion seventies racism we all know and love! TNT gets free enough to switch out the lights, then starts beating the goons in the dark.

“You want it black, you got it black!”

Sassy! Now the fight is continuing as TNT keeps switching the lights off and the goons keep switching them on! Quentin Tarantino was inspired by this light switch scene to use it in Jackie Brown. Inspired, not ripped off. Yeah. So. Anyway, all the goons are beaten away, and poor Joe almost gets beaten as well. Poor Joe. Meanwhile, Elaine figures out what we already figured out, that Charlie is a big con artist and priming to take over Stupendous Sid’s drug business forcibly, but she doesn’t reveal it to anyone at the moment, while TNT disappears to escape any future attackers. Charlie is undeterred and tortures Poor Joe and Joe’s waitress/girlfriend for information. Joe evidently gives it up, because Charlie is soon at TNT’s new place, where he tells her he’s making his move, and they have the sex, Seventies style! Bow-chicka-wow-wow! Af-chicka-fro-fro! After the deed, Charlie lights his cigarette with a lighter. A lighter engraved with “From Diana.” You recall TNT’s real name is Diana, right? Well, pay attention then! Anyway, yep, she gave that to her dead brother, so Charlie has just revealed he killed her brother! After that, he somehow took his lighter, which means he searched through the dead body after it was crashed through a set piece in the theater and many people saw it. Or the lighter was taken earlier, but I am not going to rewatch to check, I’ll just infer the worst.

Sputtering Sid goes to meet with the suppliers, while TNT tells Joe about Charlie: “I’m gonna kill his ass!” What about the rest of him, deary? The meeting between San Franciscan Sid and his suppliers takes place on the Island of Isla de Sol. Isla de Sol just happens to be having a big festival at the time with a parade, so TNT Jackson can save mucho dinero by having their actors wandering around in the random parades. The locals have lots of colorful costumes, including: Guys with tin can lids glued all over their bodies, Giant Turkeys, Weird Spotted Bears, Random African Witchdoctor styles, Pregnant Clowns, and Chinese Lions. Elaine meets up with her man in Isla de Sol, tells him to make TNT disappear as she’ll ruin the bust with her revenge quest. TNT is snarked on to the police and she gets arrested, while Joe escapes, then tells her he will rescue her later that night. Firstly, Elaine must show us her goodies in the shower before Slaphappy Sid slaps her around some. Ming has discovered her contact man, and the whole bust is ruined. At this point, the quality of the print on the DVD is so degraded it garbles up, and what looks like a good chunk of the film vanishes, and a curtain magically opens because the scene in between is lost to time. Elaine isn’t kill immediately, Standoffish Sid wants to deal with her after the meeting.

Joe’s escape plan is escaperiffic. He gets a group of the locals to march into the police station in costume as a distraction while he slips into the jail to break TNT out. He’s decked out in a Chinese Lion costume during this sequence, but the cops notice something is wrong at the end.

Tor Johnson / Asian Tor Johnson

Enough of that, it’s the meeting time, and one of the bodyguard’s of Subaru Sid’s suppliers’ is…TOR JOHNSON!!! Wait. That’s not Tor, but he looks just like him. It’s the Asian Tor Johnson! “Time for go to bed!” Oh, Tor Johnson, you were a jewel who will never be replaced.

TNT is being chased by two cops, and does some very improbably gymnastic stunts as she swings around a bar to flip over a high wall. Nadia Comaneci couldn’t have done this. Kim Zmeskal couldn’t have done this. But TNT JACKSON does it! The cops just give up, as they need backup if they are to deal with someone who has stuntpeople doing their work. Elaine is imprisoned in the hotel room, but breaks free from her two dim-witted guards with a little Bathrobe Fu. Back at the Asian Tor Johnson guarded meeting, the suppliers refuse to give Supply-less Sid any more drugs, as it’s too risky. Charlie chooses that time to reveal he has the money for a new shipment, because he’s a traitor. Shocked Sid yells at him, but is beaten up. Ming and his loyal men fight Charlie and his group of loyal men. The Guards of the Suppliers get involved, including Asian Tor Johnson, but in the big confusion and the lack of any defining characteristics of any of the gang members it’s impossible to tell who is on what side. Uniforms! Or at least give your gang colors, or hats, or spiffy haircuts. There is no emotional investment in a bunch of random idiots beating each other down. There wouldn’t be any emotional investment if I knew who the people were, but I can pretend I would have cared.

TNT grabs Elaine and they join the fray. Joe also arrives, still being tailed by the cops since he had no gymnastic stunt double to enable his escape. The cops forget about him and rush to join the fight as well. Elaine confronts Soon-to-be-dead Sid and they both go flying out a window into an alley a floor below (wait, the hotel was on the first floor just a minute ago) and are apparently dead, but never seen or mentioned again. So Long, Sid. TNT begins her final fight with Charlie in an empty ballroom. Joe fights a Chinese Guy who isn’t Ming and isn’t Joe, but it’s a long fight like he was a main character or something. Notice how each hero has a mortal enemy of the same race? It’s a good thing Hong Kong is so diverse, and yet everyone does their best to keep from miscegenating. Rubbish! Anyway, Joe wins his fight, so it’s all TNT and Charlie now. They have a long fight, up and down stairs, involves running kicks, table crashing, blood flying, male stunt doubles fighting while Jeanne Bell gets a manicure, and finally Jeanne Bell punches THROUGH Charlie. Sorry, Charlie, but that’s a “hole” lotta hurt! HA! If Charlie wasn’t already dying from a hole in the stomach, my pun would have killed him! He dies, and the movie instantly ends. Just like all the other movies like this. Instant Endings suck. They suck here, they sucked in Sister Street Fighter, they just suck.

Rated 5/10 (Bear, Tin Cans, Turkey, Chinese Lion, Pregnant Clown!)

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