The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

THE PERFECT WEAPON (1991) ***

The early 90’s was a cool time to be a Kung Fu movie fan.  It was an era when major studios were releasing stuff like Best of the Best 2, Only the Strong, and Steven Seagal’s early work.  Because giant conglomerates like Fox and Paramount were making essentially DTV chopsocky on healthy budgets, it legitimized the genre for a brief shining moment.  By the time Jackie Chan finally took America by storm in ‘96, guys like Jeff Speakman and Mark Dacascos slowly found themselves sentenced to the DTV bin.  It’s movies like The Perfect Weapon that helped crystallize a moment in time when big studios would risk a good chunk of change on a virtual unknown, provided of course he had the Kung Fu chops to back it up.

 

The plot:  Korean mobsters hassle an old shop owner for protection money.  Luckily, his buddy Jeff Speakman just happens to be in town and he mops the floor with them.  When the gangsters kill the old dude, Speakman goes out for revenge.

 

I had been meaning to see this one for quite some time.  I remember seeing lots of previews (prominently featuring the film’s theme song, “The Power”) for it when it first came out and thinking it looked pretty cool.  Luckily, my buddy Ryan over at Movies in the Attic (http://moviesintheattic.blogspot.com/) sent me a copy. 

 

Now the only other Jeff Speakman vehicle I had seen prior to The Perfect Weapon was the awful Land of the Free (although I’d also seen him in Slaughterhouse Rock and Lionheart in which he had small roles).  Because of that, I had been holding back on watching more Speakman flicks.  Now that I’ve seen what the man is truly capable of, I’ll definitely be delving into his other stuff via Netflix sometime soon. 

 

Speakman is pretty great in this.  He has a soft-spoken quality about him that’s a little reminiscent of Chuck Norris.  And like Chuck he can deliver an A-1 ass-whooping.  There’s a particularly great fight scene in the antique store where Speakman gives the bad guys the old 3 piece and a biscuit special.

 

It also helps that he has a terrific supporting cast backing him up.  I mean this movie has all the greats.  We get Mako, James Hong, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, AND Professor Toru Tanaka (who kills a guy with a head butt).  Most Kung Fu movies would be lucky to have ONE of these guys in the cast but The Perfect Weapon as ‘em all!

 

The Perfect Weapon was directed by Mark DiSalle.  His only other credit was Van Damme’s seminal Kickboxer.  I can’t imagine why he never directed more stuff because he is a solid Kung Fu cinemaniac.  (My guess:  He wanted to quit while he was ahead.)  DiSalle opens the flick by treating us to great flashback sequence showing Speakman training in Kenpo karate.  (He moves up to a black belt via jump cuts.)  DiSalle also gives us some pretty good excuses for Speakman to get into random fights (muggers, karate school challenges, bar fights in a nightclub, etc.) and the final Speakman vs. Tanaka fight is sweet.  He even delivers a rather exciting car chase too.

 

I have a motto when it comes to Kung Fu movies:  Keep it simple.  When the movie is just Speakman avenging his friend’s death, The Perfect Weapon rocks.  But during the second half there’s a bunch of unnecessary subplots like him joining forces with his whiny cop brother (who looks like the love child of James Spader and Brendan Fraser), a plot twist stolen directly from Death Wish 4, and the addition of a foul-mouth kid sidekick that sorta ruin the flick’s momentum.  However, DiSalle keeps the plot moving and since the flick clocks in at a scant 84 minutes, it never overstays its welcome.

 

I also thought Speakman’s character arc was pretty amusing.  He goes through the whole movie trying to control his anger to avoid killing Hong.  When he finally confronts him, Speakman allows him to live because killing him “isn’t worth it”.  Moments after having this emotional character breakthrough; Speakman has no qualms about blowing up Hong’s henchman though.

 

So The Perfect Weapon isn’t perfect but it’s a highly enjoyable slice of 90’s chopsocky.

 

Oh and Law and Order fans will be pleased to hear that Mariska Hargitay is in this for like two seconds.

Tags: action, kung fu, p
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