Since Cinapse is a site dedicated to film discovery and discussion, I decided to put Moore’s book into action and seek out some films from within its pages that I had never seen and cover them here. There’s nothing quite like the joy of discovery, so, inspired by Moore’s work, I’m planning to focus on reviewing some films from action heroes I’ve always known about or seen box art for, but have never experienced until now.
So check out The Good, The Tough, & The Deadly, or consider picking it up for the action aficionado in your life. It’s filled with deep cuts and old favorites, and it’s certain to expose even the most well-versed action film fan to new joys, just like it did for me.
THE PERFECT WEAPON
It’s gettin’, It’s gettin’, It’s gettin’ kind of hectic.
Opening by establishing star Jeff Speakman’s blue collar masculinity after a long day’s work on a construction site, The Perfect Weapon cuts immediately to a shirtless training sequence with Speakman sweatin’ to “The Power” by Snap! It’s the kind of scene that immediately dates a film and endears you to it simultaneously. By working extra hard to establish Speakman’s potent masculinity, The Perfect Weapon starts out on the nose and never leaves. And I couldn’t love it more as a result.
A major studio film created as a star vehicle for Speakman, this is an example of box art I grew up seeing in video stores and which I never QUITE got around to until this thrilling project of seeking out previously-undiscovered-by-me action heroes from David J. Moore’s The Good, The Tough, & The Deadly book. The thrill of tracking this movie down, pressing play, and being greeted by “The Power” was about as joyful of an experience as can be had when discovering a new film.
I adore this movie, and my joy is only fettered by the fact that Speakman did not go on to become a household name. His martial arts skills and good looks combine with at least an acceptable level of charisma which should have been the magic formula for his success. Like Chuck Norris and Cynthia Rothrock before him, Speakman is a real world martial artist who was looking to parlay his skills into movie stardom. I’d gladly have swapped out Norris’ career and handed it to Speakman if I’m being totally honest.
Breaking out some mean kenpo sticks (as featured on that aforementioned cover art), Speakman beats down hooligans with a furious speed. These sticks are hugely cinematic and a joy to watch. He’s also a nasty round house punch thrower, a move I’ve always thought looked incredible on film and has been largely underutilized.
The plot is simplistic, the studio backlots apparent, and the recognizable co-stars are abundant. Speakman plays… Jeff… a Kenpo expert more or less raised by his master after his own father disowns him to protect his younger brother from Jeff’s martial arts way of life. It feels contrived, but who cares? When Jeff comes back into town and his master is killed, it’s time for vengeance in Koreatown. He’ll tussle with his brother, who’s now a cop, and he’ll be duped and mislead at every turn because, while he’s killer on the kenpo sticks, he’s not the brightest… and IS the whitest. Various organized crime factions bounce him around until he finds those responsible for his master’s death.
In the explosive (need I highlight that I use that word literally?) finale, Speakman is single-handedly fighting Big Trouble In Little China’s David Lo Pan (James Hong), Mortal Kombat’s Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and a former WWE wrestler turned cinematic henchman (Professor Toru Tanaka). His sidekick throughout much of the film is Rufio himself, Hook’s Dante Basco, who has made a career out of being an action movie sidekick.
With all the trappings of a studio actioner, from a rock solid car chase, to gloriously old school backlots, to killer music tracks, The Perfect Weapon is a wonderful slice of 1991 action cinema as directed by Kickboxer’s Mark DiSalle and written by David C. Wilson who recently resurfaced with a story credit on the enjoyable new Man From Uncle remake. Speakman offers everything I tend to want from my action heroes and seals the deal by refusing to kill the villain in cold blood and instead remanding him into police custody… set to none other than “The Power” to close things out.
Exactly the kind of discovery I hoped for, The Perfect Weapon was a blast in its own right and a genuine find during this little exploration project. I’ll make it a point to check out some of Jeff Speakman’s other offerings and highly recommend you seek out The Perfect Weapon in all its kenpo glory.
And I’m Out.