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  Perfect Weapon, The He Speaks!
Year: 1991
Director: Mark DiSalle
Stars: Jeff Speakman, John Dye, Mako, James Hong, Mariska Hargitay, Dante Basco, Beau Starr, Seth Sakai, Professor Toru Tanaka, Clyde Kusatsu, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Tom Hermann, Micah Roberts, Craig Ng, John Koyama, Roger Yuan, Shuan Shimoda, Yoshimi Imai
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jeff Sanders (Jeff Speakman) had a troubled childhood until local do-gooding shopkeeper Kim (Mako) took him and his younger brother Adam (John Dye) under his wing and introduced him to the world of kenpo karate. He was taught by Master Lo (Seth Sakai) in the Korean town area of Los Angeles, and gradually made his way up the ladder to a black belt, an expert in the discipline, which he may have to put to good use as now, some years after graduating, he has been called back to the fold by Kim. The old man is being menaced by gangsters at his antiques emporium, for they wish to steal protection money from him - protection from them. Can Jeff see these baddies off?

Speakman had been in movies before, but no more than a couple of bit parts, when his real-life achievements in karate were recognised by Paramount who signed him up to a two-picture deal, with a plan to make more should they be hits. Alas, it was not to be, for while The Perfect Weapon did fair business, especially on video, there were other ideas being put into place at the management level that did not include making him a new star, and it was a couple of years before he re-emerged with the ignominy of leading what would be the final Cannon production, some time after their heyday and left with little promotion. He did stick at the movies, however.

Nevertheless, most of those efforts afterwards were to be found in the quieter shelves of the local video store, if at all, and Speakman never made his name in the same way that Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal did, no matter they were both headed in a similar direction, more or less. You don't meet many action fans who will say, "You know who's my favourite? Jeff Speakman!", and there's a reason for that, not down to his skills but more down to his lack of charisma; he was an excellent combatant, there's no doubt, but as an actor he was sorely lacking, and when his films had to pad out scenes between beatings with him delivering dialogue, they didn't half drag.

Fortunately, with this, his first major movie (and er, his last major movie), he was offered ample chances to show off his martial arts skills, though even so there was a sense that he could have done more, and the largely bloodless encounters were curiously antiseptic in their effect. You could garner a few snickers at such scenes as the one where he tells three guys in a gym he wants to take them all on at once, and agrees to "Full contact - no protection", because it sounds as if they're just about to participate in a full on gangbang, but that sort of entertainment was largely replaced by sequences of Jeff tracking down Professor Toru Tanaka, who was the main heavy and had offed Kim in an early scene. If you know that guy, you'll be aware he was built like a tank, but speed and agility were not his forte.

Which indicate the final fight between him and Speakman was perhaps not going to be one of the most stunning displays of karate prowess you'd ever seen, mostly Jeff avoiding the Professor's sledgehammer blows and getting in his jabs when he could. Oddly, though this was set among Koreans, you would be hard pressed to spot an actual Korean in the cast, which aside from our star and Dye were made up of Chinese, Japanese and Hawaiian performers. Maybe that wasn't so odd - how many Korean stars, even on a supporting level, were there in Hollywood of 1991? Anyway, there was an element of conspiracy going on, with a familiar Asian-American face at the heart of it, so obvious it was hardly a twist at all, but it did lead to the requisite car chase and as was expected, a big explosion at the finale. What was weird was that Mariska Hargitay was about the only woman in the cast, yet had no lines whatsoever; she was the love interest in the extended television cut, yet for the theatrical you would be wondering, who is the mute? The most lasting scene this gifted to posterity was Speakman busting moves to nineties hit The Power by Snap: you don't get much more 1991 than that. Gary Chang's soundtrack was anaemic in comparison.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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