Director: Mark DiSalle
Writer: David C. Wilson
Cast: Jeff Speakman, John Dye, Mako, Mariska Hargitay, Charles Kalani, Jr., Dante Basco, James Hong, Mako Iwamatsu, Seth Sakai, Beau Starr, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Professor Toru Tanaka, Clyde Kusatsu, Seth Sakai, Roger Yuan, James Lew
Running Time: 87 min.
Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal certainly had the action movie market cornered during the early 90’s, but martial arts fans would be wise not to pass up this B-movie gem starring Jeff Speakman. The well-oiled Kenpo practitioner was granted the spotlight for only one or two theatrical ventures in Hollywood before entering the straight to video realm and his 1991 debut “The Perfect Weapon” remains the standout. While Speakman’s acting leaves something to be desired, the plethora of fight scenes choreographed by veteran stuntman Rick Avery make “The Perfect Weapon” an action buff’s delight.
In the film, Jeff Speakman stars as…Jeff, a down on his luck construction worker who happens to be an expert in the Korean martial art of Kenpo. The first twenty minutes of the movie are taken up by lengthy flashbacks in which we learn Jeff was a rebellious kid who lashed out after the death of his mother. It wasn’t until a friend of the family, played by Mako, suggested a young Jeff enroll in Kenpo school that the boy found an outlet for his anger.
Jump forward many years later and Jeff decides to ring up his old buddy Mako and find out how he’s doing. As luck would have it, Mako picks up the phone at the very moment he’s being hassled by the Korean mob in his downtown antique shop. Jeff springs off his couch and into action, driving down to Los Angeles’ Koreatown where he soon becomes embroiled in a deadly war between various factions of the Korean mafia. It turns out an English-speaking outsider with lightning fast Kenpo skills might just be ‘the perfect weapon’ to end this blood feud.
Director Mark DiSalle (producer/director on Van Damme’s “Kickboxer”) uses this simple set-up as a springboard for a nearly endless succession of well-executed and highly enjoyable fight scenes. “The Perfect Weapon” was clearly designed from the ground up as a showcase for Jeff Speakman and his fighting skills. Considering that the movie is only 88 minutes long, the filmmakers were able to cram an almost staggering number of action sequences into the screenplay, whether it’s Speakman doing a ‘bull in a China shop’ routine as he accidentally smashes up Mako’s antique shop while fighting some hoodlums or the showstopping scene where Speakman faces off against three opponents at once in a Korean-owned gym. Kenpo differs from other forms of martial arts in that the goal appears to be to chain a never-ending stream of punches to your opponent’s face, almost like an old-school arcade game come to life.
Olive Films is the distributor behind “The Perfect Weapon’s” release on Blu-ray. This is one of those films that most martial arts buffs suspected they would never see in hi-def but, lo and behold, the Blu-ray is here and the picture quality is more than adequate. If, like me, you’ve only ever seen the film on VHS before, you’re likely to be taken aback by the level of detail on display here. The visuals are crisp to the point where you can see every line of stubble on Jeff Speakman’s face – though I’m not sure you’d want to.
The disc is bare bones; the menu only allows you to play the movie or select Chapters, with no Special Features to speak of. While it would have been nice to see some new (or old) interviews with Jeff Speakman and fight coordinator Rick Avery, the visual quality on Olive’s release is such an upgrade from previous iterations of the film, with the audio packing a very modern-sounding wallop as well, that it’s hard to complain.
“The Perfect Weapon” may not be a 5-star film but it gives me 5-stars worth of entertainment every time I watch it. While other so-called action stars were performing one spin kick and calling it a ‘fight scene,’ Speakman was busy connecting a flurry of hits to the bad guys, often with his signature Kenpo sticks. The fact that Speakman’s character is actually named ‘Jeff’ here adds a whole other level of enjoyment to the picture, causing the viewer to wonder how much of the film could be culled from Speakman’s life and linking it to other possibly-autobiographical action movies like Steven Seagal’s “Above the Law.” This is also one of the few movies to cast a literal ‘who’s who’ of 80’s and 90’s Asian actors, including Mako (“Conan the Barbarian”); James Hong (“Big Trouble in Little China”); Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (“Mortal Kombat”); Professor Toru Tanaka (Subzero in “The Running Man”); Clyde Kusatsu (“Rising Sun”); and Seth Sakai (“The Hunted”), most of whom will be instantly recognizable to martial arts fans.
Tastes change, genres evolve, stars get older and go direct to DVD. But “The Perfect Weapon” will always kick ass.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 9/10
Cityonfire.com would like to thank Boulevard Movies for providing a copy of the film for review purposes. Boulevard Movies has been keeping movie lovers stocked with their favorite cult classics and foreign films on Blu-ray and DVD since 2006.