"I'll just get my gear."

The Perfect Weapon

This review is by special request of several individuals on the STONE COLD DVD talkback and other people over the years who have tried to get me to watch this movie. The Perfect Weapon of the title in this 1991 white martial arts movie is Jeff Speakman, an American Kenpo Karate sixth degree black belt who I guess is playing himself, since they just call him Jeff. The movie opens with Jeff shirtless and oiled up, in a living room doing karate moves to that horrible song “I Got the Power (It’s Gettin It’s Gettin It’s Gettin Kinda Hectic It’s Gettin It’s Gettin It’s Getting Kinda Hectic I Got the Power!)” by the group Snap!. It’s funny because this movie is only 85 minutes long but they still felt they had time for him to do moves to that entire song. As it ends he puffs his chest out like he just won a medal.

Then Jeff goes for a ride in his convertible and as he soaks in the open road he thinks about his past. So we learn that after his mom died he was a troublemaking kid, and his cop dad wanted to send him to military school. Fortunately Pops’s Korean war buddy Kim (the great Mako) convinced him to send Jeff to Kenpo Karate Dojo instead. To learn self discipline.

The Perfect Weapon(after this flashback Jeff smiles nostalgically)

But in high school some jock assholes picked on his brother so he did some flying kicks, broke a football helmet and hospitalized the guy. So his dad worried that he was gonna kill somebody some day and kicked him out of the house.

(after this one he frowns).

So now as an adult Jeff is estranged from his family but sees Kim, now owner of successful Koreatown business Kim’s Imports, as sort of a father figure. Luckily he happens to call Kim to chat at the same time that the Korean mafia is shaking him down. Kim convinces Jeff to stay out of it but, obviously, the mafia guys kill him so Jeff has to bring them to justice and/or get his white karate revenge.

Jeff Speakman seems to be good at karate, but he does not have much of a screen presence. That’s why he never had an UNDER SIEGE type breakout. I guess he’s supposed to have a dark side, and he tries to talk like Clint Eastwood sometimes, but he still seems like the nice jock boyfriend character in a horror movie. The good guy counselor in a movie like THE BURNING or a FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel who gallantly helps the final girl but gets killed 2/3 of the way in. He’s not terrible, but he’s pretty bland. I can’t really picture many people watching the movie and thinking man, Jeff Speakman is so cool. I want to be Jeff Speakman.

If you don’t know what he looks like, just picture a white karate guy from the ’80s, but then imagine he has no mustache. That’s Jeff Speakman. Actually, when he’s not in closeup he looks alot like the captain guy from SERENITY. Similar hairdo and jacket, anyway. Maybe he was the stunt double, I don’t know.

There are plenty of funny parts in this movie, but to be frankly honest I do not think it’s the classic I was led to believe it was. You probaly had to see it at the time to really be attached to it. There was a part where he was beating on a couch with two sticks which kind of made me smile, but not like it did for the people who love this movie. I did like when the old businessman villain suddenly had a knife pop out of his sleeve. My favorite part though is when Jeff pole vaults over a barbwire fence. It had been established in the high school flashback that he was a pole vaulter, but I didn’t really believe he would use it. It would be even cooler if he did it a whole bunch of times. Hey, there is a car driving at me, let me grab this pipe that’s on the ground and pole vault over it. Anyway, that was cool. That woulda been fucked up if he hit the barbed wire, too. That’s a good stunt.

Although the main villain is the old man with the knife up his sleeve, the guy he mainly fights is the old man’s henchman, Professor Toru Tanaka as the imaginatively named character “Tanaka.” You may know the professor from his scholarly work in THE RUNNING MAN or as the fat rich kid’s butler in PEE-WEE’S INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. He’s the Hawaiin (supposedly Japanese) ex-pro-wrestler with the giant head and shoulders. In this movie he is always wearing a nice suit and he looks like he could bite the head off of a car. In fact, when he gets trapped in a sideways car with another car balanced on top of it he actually opens the door and pushes the other car aside. He’s like the incredible hulk. The cops shock him and take him into custody but when he comes to he busts out of the back of the cop car. Honestly it’s probaly for the best because if they put him in a cell he woulda busted out of there like Kool Aid Man. Easier to get a new car than fix a hole in a brick wall.

He’s so tough in fact that even though he’s the #2 villain he survives longer than the #1 villain and has the climactic showdown (and a pretty good death by chemical explosion).

And it got me wondering. How come nobody ever made a movie starring this guy? I looked through his filmography and it looks like he never got a lead role (he died in 2000). He was in the tradition of Oddjob from GOLDFINGER, always playing the faithful asskicking Asian bodyguard. Many of his character names ended with the word “Guard,” “Aide,” “Servant,” or “Bodyguard,” if not a #1 or #2.

But in my opinion he was the Perfect Weapon. Well, okay, he got blown up, so he wasn’t quite perfect. But human weapons are only human. He is almost the perfect weapon. To me he stole the movie. I was more interested in watching him than watching Jeff Speakman. I’m sure any filmatist faced with the task of creating a Professor Toru Tanaka vehicle would’ve thought he wasn’t a good enough actor, but clearly nobody worried about that with Jeff Speakman. Let’s be fair here. If Jeff could pull it off then so could the Professor. And it would be so much more interesting to watch a guy like this, because you don’t ever see a guy like this as a lead. What is it like to live your life at that size? It helps him kick ass, but also it’s hard to find a seat that fits him. It must be expensive for him to get those nice suits tailored. And let’s face it, it’s gonna be a handicap in the dating scene. He’s more badass than Jeff — he knows jiujitsu but if he’d rather he could just palm your face and shake you around — but you also feel more sorry for him. Damn, somebody should’ve tried it at least once.

Jeff Speakman graduated from “Mansion Security Man” in LIONHEART to “Jeff” in this one. And Mariska Hargitay went from non-speaking karate friend “Jennifer” in this movie to Emmy winner for LAW AND ORDER SPECIAL VICTIM UNIT. So why couldn’t Toru Tanaka go from “Tough Asian Man” in THE LAST ACTION HERO to, say, Jason Patric’s role in SPEED 2? Wouldn’t that have been better?

You blew it, Hollywood. Shame on you.

Anyway, thanks for the tip guys.

This entry was posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2007 at 3:58 pm and is filed under Action, Drama, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

39 Responses to “The Perfect Weapon”

  1. This movie FINALLY hits bluray today, apparently skipping DVD altogether (like Ishtar!). Of course I loved this movie as a kid but something tells me I might not like it so much today. Then again, I’ve never seen the fight scenes in widescreen, so it might be worth a buy. I do remember really digging Speakman’s Kenpo style (it basically looks like he’s giving dudes the choppy massage motion all over their bodies) and I actually thought he was underrated as an actor. I just checked his IMDB and am actually surprised he was in ton of movies. I only remember this one, Street Knight and the one where he fights William Shatner, which sounds bad but I really liked that one too. Also I really like how much of a nice guy he is in this movie – he only kills maybe 2-3 people reluctantly, whereas Street Knight had some mean-spirited Seagal-style gore.

    Anyways, thanks for reviewing this for us Vern (I’m sure i was one of the people bugging you to review it), and I wish you liked it more!

  2. ISHTAR is on Blu-Ray?

  3. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    February 20th, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    RRA: Nope, Ishtar was announced on blu, but for some reason it never came out.

    Speaking of blu, PERFECT WEAPON came on the mail today. I’m 25 minutes into the thing, and the flashbacks have just finished. Extended, incredibly stupid flashbacks is a Mark Di Salle trademark. First viewing of this classic. Loving it so far.

  4. Ishtar came out on DVD. (At least over here.)

  5. man, I forgot Ishtar was announced for blu ray and I also didn’t realize it never came out

    but of course I can’t say I’m surprised, I mean it’s freakin’ Ishtar

  6. Rudolf – wow, you’re right! What in the world happened to Ishtar on bluray? It’s “unavailable” everywhere even though there’s cover art and everything. I like how Buy.com (really terrible site by the way) has it for sale for preorder – Release Date: 1/1/2037(!)

    And glad you’re digging Perfect Weapon, let me know if the picture quality/special features(?) are any good.

  7. ISHTAR isn’t as bad as its reputation, it’s just a mediocre comedy, one of those purposeful lightweight comedies which instead became a featherweight picture.

    That might get a BR release, but not THE KEEP?

  8. I just saw The Keep on video. It doesn’t hold up well.

  9. Rudolf Klein-Rogge

    February 21st, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Yeah, THE KEEP isn’t all that. But it’s still strange that it hasn’t come out on disc yet. Wasn’t Paramount prepping a release of a director’s cut a few years back? I do believe it can be streamed for all you US dudes with netflix access. ISHTAR has been released on a decent DVD in Europe. Unlike RRA, I quite like it. The first part is very funny, but it does loose steam when they get to the desert. As far as political satires of 1987 are concerned, it isn’t as sharp as ROBOCOP or WALKER (nor is it as sharp as 1988’s THEY LIVE, but what is?), but it’s still pretty good. The Reagan era was a haven for radical political filmmaking in the US, apparantely. Was 87 the year it peaked?

    Anyway, turns out PERFECT WEAPON is not a political satire, nor is it very sharp. I had a lot of fun with it though. I agree with Vern that beating the couch and pole-jumping the fence where two of the highlights, but I liked the rest as well. HOOK’s Rufio made for a poor sidekick, and I would have preferred some unpredictability/more absurdness, but beggars can’t be choosers. The blu-ray looked fine. For those unfamiliar with Olive Films (the company putting the disc out), they’ve been given access to the Paramount vault, and have been pumping out rarities and cult movies for two years now. Most of the stuff they put out is pre-1970, but for some reaseon the made an exception for Jeff Speakman. All their discs look good, but come with no extras or subtitles.

    Gotta run. My REPO MAN Steelbook Blu-Ray from Masters of Cinema just arrived. I need to go and spend a few hours in front my TV.

  10. Scott Adkins interview with Speakman is up!

    The Art of Action - Jeff Speakman - Episode 17

    In episode 17, Scott Adkins talks to Kenpo Karate Master Jeff Speakman about his art, life and the making of The Perfect Weapon. 0:00 Introduction 3:11 Marti...

  11. Thanks for posting that Felix, because I’ve been meaning to shamelessly plug Adkins Art of Action YouTube series and what better forum to do it in then one where like minded lovers of Action Cinema frequently congregate?

    Adkins has taken to podcasting with Joe Rogan-ish elan and he’s amassed a pretty awesome guest list so far. He’s had contemporary greats like MJW and Tony Jaa, the great and still criminally underrated Mark Dacascos, doyens of 80’s action greatness like Cynthia Rothrock, Benny Urquidez and Richard Norton, fight choreographer supremo JJ Perry, directors who took the Action Movie Bar and raised it several notches higher like Gareth Evans and Chad Stahelski, his last podcast was with Mr. Best Of The Best himself, Philip Rhee and a couple of weeks ago it was DOLPH FREAKING LUNDGREN!!!!

    And his next podcast is with…HOLD YOUR BREATH AND PLEASE SIT DOWN FOR THIS……STEVEN SEAGAL!!!

    I’m filled with equal parts excitement and trepidation for that one…given the particular and peculiar nature of the interviewee…

  12. I don’t watch a lot of YouTube stuff, but THE ART OF ACTION is excellent. The J.J. Perry one in particular was one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen on the subject of action cinema.

  13. May be a mistake to invite Seagal though.

  14. I am loving the series. Adkins is a great interviewer, giving his guests lots of room to discuss their careers. I liked the slight change with the Jude Poyer episode, but now we need another one with him where he discusses his own cinematic achievements! I hope to see Michelle Yeoh and Vic Armstrong amongst future guests. Any suggestions from you guys?

  15. Honestly, I would love to see him talk to someone from Germany’s famous, multiple Taurus Stunt Award winning ACTION CONCEPT guys and discuss the differences between stunt- and actionwork in the US and a country, that has absolutely no history with this genre and still struggles to get it of its feet.

  16. Yeah, I loved the JJ Perry episode too, and the Rothrock/Norton ones and their insight into what it took for Caucasians to earn the respect and acknowledgement of Jackie, Sammo and the HK film industry as bona fide ass-kickers so much respect!

    CJ, is Mike Moller (One Million K[l]icks, Ultimate Justice) part of the Taurus Stunt Team?

  17. Felix, yeah part of me thinks so too. So far all of Adkins guests have distinguished themselves with their astounding generosity and amazing humility. Speakman’s closing statement in the podcast was especially poignant.

    To have Seagal, who’s pretty much trash-talked almost every established martial artist (there was an interview where he was asked if he thought MJW who acted with him in EXIT WOUNDS was a great martial artist to which the acknowledged reincarnation of the 17th-century translator-teacher Terton Chungdrag Dorje replied “Can I laugh in your face?” ) on Adkins podcast would definitely be a change of tone, putting it mildly.

    Let’s hope Adkins has the dexterity to manage the great blues-playing Tulku. And when I say dexterity, I’m talking at the level of juggling 5 knives sitting on a unicycle that’s perched atop a ball which is balanced on a tightrope 20 feet up.

  18. Yeah, I don’t think I can watch the Seagal one. SEAGALOGY is still great because it allows us to engage with the work without having to deal with the puddle of toxic waste and unwarranted self-regard that is the man himself. I see nothing but cringe in allowing him to stare point blank into a webcam and expose his delusion and narcissism for an hour. I don’t have the stomach for that.

  19. I’ve seen a few of Seagal’s recent flicks. He generally lets his co-stars like Luke Goss or Bryon Mann do the majority of the action stuff these days. Most of Seagal’s scenes are him behind a desk.

    KILLIING SALAZAR is watchable. But that’s mostly because of Luke Goss.

  20. The only Seagal thing I’ve seen in the last decade is the entertainingly ludicrous CHINA SALESMAN, in which he gets his ass fucking handed to him in a doggy bag by Mike Tyson in the film’s most enjoyable scene. It’s not getting any better than that, so I think that scene was probably my exit ramp for the Seagal oeuvre unless I nut up and read that novel of his about Native American werewolves fighting Obama or whatever.

  21. I don’t know anything about KILLING SALAZAR. But just as Lawrence Block’s KILLING CASTRO gives us a team of mercenaries in 1961 who head over to Cuba and do, indeed, kill Castro, I’m now imagining an alternate-history movie where Seagal & Co. fly to Portugal in the ’30s and assassinate Antonio Salazar. If that’s not really what it’s about, please don’t tell me.

  22. KayKay, honestly, I don’t know, but he seems to be quite prolific. His IMDb lists lots of shot-in-Germany Hollywood productions from the last 20 years, but surprisingly few Action Concept productions.

  23. My last Seagal was ATTRITION AKA FINAL MISSION which I watched because a couple of friends convinced me it was “his best in years”. I can only say the bar has been set so low for a Seagal flick any movie where he ISN’T doubled in the fights or for a walk across a room in wide shot, DOESN’T mumble his dialogues and features more than the standard 6 minutes of aikido is now considered a “Return To Form”.

    The screenplay by Seagal (and which he proudly claimed to be “Kurosawa like”) has him bloviating about Zen, Buddhism and the Perversion of Martial arts throughout the film’s 85 minutes , so if you’re one of those who thought his pro-environment sermon which closed ON DEADLY GROUND was a criminally short 10 minutes, then are you in for a treat! The dialogues essentially consist of Ole’ Steve’s one liner to the bar bully in his sole directorial venture (“What Does It Take To Change The Essence Of A Man?” ) extrapolated to movie length

    Heavily publicized initially and then dumped on VOD without so much as a murmur (most likely owing to it scoring “twin honors” of having both it’s producer and star embroiled in sexual misconduct allegations), Attrition’s saving grace is Seagal’s co-stars who provide some stellar support and heavy lifting in some decently choreographed fights.

    Recommended only if you crave the COMPLETE STEVEN SEAGAL EXPERIENCE which the film handily provides: He starts off the movie as a Special Forces Bad Ass in Army fatigues and bandanna ported over from his previous 20 DTV flicks, then becomes a wise doctor dispensing holistic medicine and wisdom, reverts back to an unstoppable elbow-breaking and wrist-snapping wrecking machine and closes it by strapping on an electric guitar and playing the blues to an appreciative audience.

  24. Yes, I would love to see Michelle Yeoh on there, which reminds me – that one episode pretty much outed Santa Claus for me! I have been talking up that SUPERCOP 3 motorcycle stunt for decades without realizing how it was done. It’s still amazing, of course, but geez.

    I’m sure he’ll have Amy Johnston and Larnell Stovall soon enough, and Isaac Florentine and Jesse V. Johnson episodes would be cool partly because of his relationships with them. I’m sure he’ll try to get JCVD, Sammo Hung, John Hyams, Zoe Bell, Jackie, Stallone, Arnold if possible. What if he did John Woo?

  25. Hmmm….I don’t know Vern, Adkins has so far kept to a strong martial arts theme in his podcasts, the actors he’s invited all bona fide martial artists and the directors (Stahelski, Evans) those who’ve incorporated a lot of martial arts into their action. Florentine and Johnson are a shoo-in but somehow I can only associate the Woo-Man with epic gun fights and not with martial arts. You’d have to go way back to the 70s to LAST HURRAH FOR CHIVALRY or HAND OF DEATH to see some of his pure martial arts themed films. Even my memories of RED CLIFF which I last saw about 5 years ago are filled with huge battles and strategizing rather than kung fu. I’ll discount HARD TARGET as I’m fairly sure the fancy footwork was added in to appease Van Damme fans.

  26. I’m certain if Adkins COULD get Woo, he’d have him. While it’s mostly martial arts based, who’s gonna turn down a genuine master? Woo’s gunfights have a lot in common with martial arts though, it’s got so much physicality behind it, constant bodies doing interesting moves rather than just shooting. I’m not as much into gunfights, I like fighting, but Woo’s shootouts still feel like fighting.

    Actually while Woo hasn’t done a lot of martial arts stuff, I do like the what he stages hand to hand combat. Not just Hard Target which was a nice melding, but the might in Mission Impossible 2 is awesome with all the trick kicks. Bullet in the Head had some great fights, and having Philip Kwok kicking ass in Hard Boiled was a joy.

  27. He’s stuck to martial artists and stunt people, and I appreciate it because it’s his area of expertise, but in the Dolph episode he talked about ROCKY IV and CREED II quite a bit and said more than once that he wanted to talk about action in general, not just martial arts. So I’m sure especially after he crosses off most of the biggest names on the list he will broaden the scope a little bit to get people like Stallone.

    And I forgot to put Statham on my list.

  28. Vern: Oh yeah I too hope he expands the podcast to encompass all action in general, just hoping he can cover the ass-kicker contingent as much as possible. I too would love to see all the HK greats like Michelle, Jackie, Sammo, Donnie and Jet featured and also people like the OTHER Jeff (Wincott), Olivier Gruner, Michael Dudikoff, David Bradley, Don “The Dragon” Wilson and of course the Grand Daddy of them all the Chuckster! Given how many movies they’ve done together surprised Adkins hasn’t had the Muscles from Brussels on yet.

  29. Muh: That’s a good point and I do agree Woo’s gun fights are as elegantly choreographed as the best fights although I have to say, I’m not too enamored of his staging of hand to hand combat.

    HARD TARGET was a no brainer given Van Damme’s natural prowess, but the Travolta/Slater showdown in BROKEN ARROW was just dull. As for the Tom Cruise/Dougray Scott fight in MI2, well I didn’t hate it, but it was marred by too much slo-mo, which in my opinion need to be sprinkled like seasoning and not lathered on like gravy in fights. And it’s been awhile since I saw it, but it was also intercut with too many shots of Thandie Newton staring mournfully from a cliff’s edge while some gloomy music plays out.

  30. Olivier Grunner is a must. I watched NEMESIS quite a few times in my youth.

    Anyone seen John Woo’s MANHUNT? It’s lesser Woo for me.

  31. Yeah, I can’t imagine he’d get a chance to talk to Arnold and be like, “No! Kickers only!”

    Olivier Gruner seemed like a real dick that one time he invaded the comment section. I like SAVATE though so maybe it would be worth it.

  32. KayKay – That’s a good list of people I forgot, so there’s definitely room for many more episodes! And we forgot Gary Daniels, whose movies I bet Adkins watched growing up. And maybe some of the legends like Judo Gene Lebell, Bob Wall or Dan Inosanto. I was also thinking it would be fun to hear him to talk to RZA and Tarantino.

  33. Vern: Dammit , how could I forget Gary Daniels? I just love Adkins’ podcast shining the spotlight on the greats of action cinema of the 80s and 90s, many now sidelined to the fringes, remembered and appreciated by aficionados only. Lebell,Inosanto and Wall should be there, along with maybe a “Hall of Baddies” multi-video conference of Al Leong, James Lew, Roger Yuan, Matthias Hues, Ralf Moellar, Cary Tagawa etc (pity legends like Mako and Professor Toru Tanaka have passed on)

  34. The Segal interview is about what we were all expecting

  35. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 6th, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    I just started watching it and yeah, Seagal already seems like a condescending asshole.

    “Half time, do you even know what that is? Probably not, because you’re British.”

    I think Adkins knew what he was in for though, his smiles seem pretty real, like he’s thinking “Jesus, this guy” and is just enjoying it anyway.

  36. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 6th, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    I will say Seagal seems to get into the conversation more as it goes on. By the time they both start geeking out about Bruce Lee it really seems like he’s enjoying himself, and he becomes (slightly) less annoying and full of himself.

  37. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 6th, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Ok, sorry about this kind of live tweet reaction, but when Seagal spends the full interview heaping extravagant praise on himself and then at the end says this:

    “Everybody has a different attitude on the martial arts. To me, martial arts should be something to teach you humility. Real humility.”

    That was honestly the biggest laugh I had in a while.

    It’s an enjoyable interview really, and in the end not as cringy as I was expecting. I think Scott does a really good job getting Seagal in a good, talkative mood and even though he uses plenty of flattery to get there, a lot of his admiration is obviously honest and real.

  38. Here’s the Seagal ep in full.

    The Art of Action - Steven Seagal - Episode 18

    In episode 18, Scott Adkins talks to Steven Seagal about his meteoric rise to the top of the Hollywood A-List with his 5 film run Above The Law, Hard To Kill...

  39. Just watched it and surprisingly not the train wreck I was expecting. My respect for Scott has inched up 2 more notches with the way he managed Seagal, striking just the right balance between fan boy and interviewer, with a little bit of flattery to smooth the way. Seagal is remarkably down to earth and even manages to toss a few compliments at the Greats (Bruce, Sammo, Donnie) not to mention Chad Stahelski. That’s not to say it’s completely free of his patented Truth Embroidery. For years he he claimed he was part Italian, now he’s Russian Mongol from his dad’s side? And his mother’s Native American (Mohawk????) Am just glad he managed to steer clear of the “CIA Years”.

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