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Directed by: Mark DiSalle
Starring: Jeff Speakman, Mako, Dante Basco, James Hong, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Professor Toru Tanaka, and Mariska Hargitay
"No Gun. No Knife. No Equal."
Jeff Sanders (Speakman) has been training in Kenpo since he was a young boy. At first, it was because his father wanted to direct all his unruly, youthful energy. Now he’s a Kenpo master who abides by his own tagline, “no gun, no knife, no equal” (though technically he does use Arnis sticks). When his friend, a shop owner named Kim (Mako) comes under fire from the Korean mob, Sanders snaps into action. But will he snap some necks along the way?
Along his quest, he must utilize the help of his brother, a cop named Adam Sandler...er...Sanders, and a young punk kid named Jimmy (Fist of the North Star (1995) and Blood and Bone (2009)’s Basco) but it’s going to take all of Jeff’s Kenpo skills to fight off Yung (Hong), Kai (Tagawa) and the intimidating Tanaka (played, unsurprisingly, by Professor Toru Tanaka). Is Jeff Sanders the PERFECT WEAPON? Find out today...
The Perfect Weapon is the best Jeff Speakman movie we’ve seen to date...and why wouldn’t it be: it was his first starring role, as well as being a major studio release tailor-made to showcase his Kenpo talents to the world. As might be expected, the fight scenes are the highlight of the production. Speakman clearly has “got game”, as it were, enough to compete with all his competitors at the time.
The whole thing is well-shot and you can see all the moves. Refreshingly, this was before quick cuts, green screens and nu-metal corroded the action genre. Sure, it slows down before the climax, but that’s a common action movie malady we’ve seen countless times before. There’s the time honored warehouse showdown, but this time employees still work there and it’s not abandoned. So there’s a slight difference there.
Gumming up the works is the introduction of Jimmy, the classic young punk kid. He gives his scenes with Speakman an unpleasant American Ninja 5 (1993) vibe. He even un-ironically whines “are we there yet?” at one point. Now, let’s not forget Mariska Hargitay, TV’s Olivia Benson, is technically in this movie as well. Despite being top-billed, she has literally zero spoken dialogue and appears only in brief flashes. It would have been so much cooler if Speakman teamed up with her to bust some heads in Koreatown. But no, there has to be an annoying kid, and the movie goes slower with Jimmy.
At least the movie is well-made, and, plotwise, it’s actually about Kenpo, which gives the whole thing consistency. Yes, the whole thing looks like it was shot on a backlot (there are some pretty obvious sets), but some of them are cool - look at “Club Croc-Pit”.
Notably, the film starts out with Speakman sweatily working out, shirtlessly, in sweatpants, to Snap’s “The Power”. You just know he intentionally put that song on because he believes it was written about him. You can’t get more 1991 than that. When I was eleven years old, I remember seeing a commercial on TV for this movie, and even then, thinking, “another one?” - meaning, I already knew about Arnie, Sly, Seagal, Van Damme, and perhaps others involved in the late 80’s/early 90’s action boom, and I was surprised “they” (meaning studio higher-ups) were rolling out a new guy. How could I, or anyone, have known that the U.S. action boom was about to go bust. We should really treasure what we have.
Director DiSalle has had an interesting career - he’s only directed this and Kickboxer (1989), but he produced Speakman’s Street Knight (1993), as well as Bloodsport (1988) and Death Warrant (1990). He wrote the story for Kickboxer 2 (1989), acted in all five of the aforementioned movies, and that’s about it for him. Apparently he only works with Speakman or Van Damme. Seems like a good way to go through life. Anyway, The Perfect Weapon, despite a few flaws, would prove to be the last theater-released movie from the action boom of the day. That alone makes it worth seeing.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty
Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum!