Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Perfect Weapon (1991)

The perfect weapon poster


No Gun. No Knife. No Equal.

Movie Review:

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Until recently, The Perfect Weapon was only available on VHS or a bootleg Australian DVD (mastered from VHS) that had made it's way worldwide due to the demand for this film. Finally in February, Olive Films in the US gave this one it's first DVD and Blu-ray release. It's always been renowned as one of, if not the, best film that Jeff Speakman was involved in so it's about time it got some loving, digital attention.

Jeff Sanders (Jeff Speakman) receives a distressed phone call from his long time friend and Korean shop owner, Kim (Mako). During his long drive back home to rescue Kim, Jeff reminisces about his past, which gives us the opportunity to see how he learned the martial art-form Kenpo at age 10, and how at age 17 is disowned by his father for being a bad influence on his younger brother. When he arrives at Kim's shop he sees Kim being threatened by local Korean mafia, whom he dispatches with a blinding array of punches, kicks and stick smashing.

Of course, the Korean mafia won't take this kind of insult calmly, and by the next day Kim has been killed by an unknown assailant (though we as the audience know who it is). When Jeff finds out what has happened, via his younger brother Adam (John Dye, Best of the Best) who is now a cop, he plans to take the law into his own hands, and after a routine 'weapons at the ready' montage, take down the heads of the Korean mafia.

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"The Tiger is strong and fearless. The Dragon is full of wisdom."

This was absolutely amazing. Talk about a hidden treasure! Jeff Speakman's The Perfect Weapon is right up there with early Steven Seagal films. If you enjoy Marked for Death or Out for Justice, there's simply no question at all that you will like this one. The 80's period set-pieces (even though this came out in 1991, I'm calling it an 80's film) are fantastic. We get beat up brown undercover cop cars, flashing neon sign nightclubs, underground Asian mafia, a multitude of mullets and training montages. The movie starts AND finishes to the tune of Snap's "I've Got the Power". If that doesn't convince you then this is the wrong blog for you.

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Speakman brings the Kenpo action fluently, which is no surprise as its the part of the film he doesn't have to act - Jeff is a 8th degree rank in American Kenpo Karate. His arts film very similar to early Seagal (who holds a 7th degree rank in Aikido) with a lot of hand-to-hand fighting. Seagal had his slap-fu, Speakman has this trick where he hits you around the face so fast you don't know what's going on. He only breaks it out once or twice in a movie (we saw it in Deadly Outbreak) but it's fantastic. He is also skilful with Kenpo Sticks, unleashing rabid wooden fury on a few occasions throughout the film, including a great one-against-three fight at a dojo and an even better one-against-four back alley fight. He's really at the top of his game here, and his prowess isn't watered-down by any romantic sub-plot either.

This film has the best secondary Asian character actors from the vintage 80's action period. First of is Mako from Crying Freeman, Sworn to Justice, Midnight Man and Fatal Mission with Peter Fonda. We also get James Hong (Missing in Action, Ninja III: Domination, Big Trouble in Little China) as the red herring bad Mafia boss, playing a suitably evil role as Yung. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat) who we recently saw in Tekken is Yung's Lieutenant, Kai, and while he doesn't get much to do, he has a pretty great fight with Speakman at the end.

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There's a supremely awesome and recurring appearance of Professor Toru Tanaka (The Running Man, Martial Law, Hard Justice) - as Tanaka - playing Yung's hitman who sparked Speakman's initial revenge. This is probably the most I've seen of the Professor in a film and he's just amazing. He doesn't say anything except mumbling to himself manically in Korean. He takes two successive taser shots to the chest, after lifting car off his head. Totally awesome stuff. Tanaka can also take claim in this film to being the highlight of one of the best finale wharf explosions in cinema.

The prize appearance for me was the uncredited, blink-and-you'll-miss it scene in the nightlcub fight. Amongst all the bodies throwing themselves at Speakman was Al Leong! The same Al Leong from Die Hard, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Action Jackson, Big Trouble in Little China, Cage, Dark Angel, Steele Justice.. everything amazing from the 80's. He says nothing, hell he doesn't really do anything, but I still teared up when I saw him. I had to rewind to double check that it was him, but it's him. Fantastic.

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There's a little bit of comedy in the film. I especially enjoyed a little throwaway scene showing Jeff's brother Adam trying to get information out of a restaurant chef, asking about Kim, receiving a "Yes!" and a box of Kim Gee. Adam tries again and receives another "Yes!" and another box of food. Giving up he says goodbye, to which the the chef replies in fluent English "Have a nice day." Champagne comedy!

I loved Speakman's Deadly Outbreak but this is the kind of action film I really get down with. I like to call them "catalyst revenge" films. All it takes is the death of your respective martial arts Master and it's on like Donkey Kong. It's completely obvious how it will all play out and that allows you to sit back and enjoy the martial arts and haircuts. We aren't very far into Speakman's career here at Explosive Action but I hope that some of his other films (off the top of my head with have The Expert and Street Knight to look forward to) have similar urban settings with gritty street-fights.

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Mark DiSalle directed this. He was responsible for directing JCVD's Kickboxer, and was the producer on Death Warrant, Street Knight and Bloodsport. That's a pretty solid heritage to ensure you are getting a quality American martial arts film. He also played the football coach that tends to the oaf that young-Speakman knocks out cold with his kicks. Props must go to DiSalle for getting a live crocodile to appear in a tank at the movies' nightclub, The Croc Bar.

The Perfect Weapon is essential viewing for 80's and early 90's action fans. The DVD and Blu-ray put out by Paramount and Olive Films is the first time the film has been released legitimately since the days of VHS. Olive should be applauded for delving into Paramount's back catalogue and bringing this one to a new audience. If you read my old About page you'll see I harp on about how I missed out on obvious action films when I was growing up. Perfect Weapon is definitely one of those films. Buy it now!

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The Video:

As mentioned above, we finally have a DVD and Blu-ray release courtesy of Paramount and Olive Films in the US. I can't speak for the DVD but the Blu-ray is All Region ABC and played perfectly on my Region B locked player. The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and sports a healthy, natural grain that places the picture as vintage 80's action. Sound is a solid if unremarkable DTS Master stereo track. No extras, just a menu and chapter points, but who cares - this is Perfect Weapon on disc for the first time! Runtime 85 minutes.

Sourced From: Buy the DVD or Blu-ray.


More Screens:

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  1. Excellent review! Always wanted to see this...will be buying it post-haste.

  2. Thanks Ty! That's great news. Definitely just buy this one, it's not even worth renting, you have to have it.

    Incidentally, while this review was too early for the Week of Hong, I'll be contributing to the project with another of his movies!

  3. Yeah this was pretty awesome, the only way it could've been better is if it also had Soon-Tek Oh and James Lew! Shame Kenpo hasn't been featured in more films, I also remember that Mark Dacascos film Only The strong showcased Capoeira, an anfro-brazilian fighting style. Mako and Cary also both appeared in Armed Response.

  4. Hah oh wow, Soon-Tek Oh. He was great in Missing in Action 2. And apparently James Lew was in The Perfect Weapon as a gang member called "Crewcut"!

  5. It's about time I probably hit this one myself, huh? And now it's finally on DVD too. Great stuff.

    1. You totally need to man, and the DVD/Blu-ray are just glorious!

  6. Totally forgot to pre-order this need to get it ASAP!
    Thanks for the reminder:)

  7. brilliant review Simon i bought 6 blu rays cause i love this movie so much and not to mention all the bootleg copies i bought lol cheers my friend keep up the awesome blog love the info and insight cheers cya

  8. Haha 6 blu-rays man! You must be a massive fan!