In 'Perfect Weapon,' when the martial arts stops, the movie stops

On movies

March 19, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

Paramount has signed Jeff Speakman to a four-picture deal, so we can hope they will do better by him with his second film.

His first, ''Perfect Weapon,'' isn't much. It plays like a ''Kung Fu'' episode. You may remember ''Kung Fu.'' That was the martial arts series David Carradine did on television. Each episode played like four days.

That's the way it is with ''Perfect Weapon.'' It lasts little more than 83 minutes but seems much longer than that, partly because so much of the film is played off in the dark, partly because the dialogue is, well, elementary.

Speakman, newest of the martial-arts movie heros, moves well. You wouldn't want to cross him. You wouldn't even want him to know you've written an unflattering review of his film. He's quick, and he's lethal, and when he is in action, chopping away with his fists, sticks and chain, he is something to see.

Trouble is, he isn't always on the move, and when he isn't, everything in this film stops.

The plot has Speakman return to San Diego where we learn, through flashback (as Speakman is riding along in his convertible), that Jeff Sanders (Speakman) had left home at an early age, forced out by a father who felt he couldn't cope with the boy. Fine, but what's the old man accomplishing by throwing the boy out of the house? And the boy isn't that bad. All he's done is beat a bully to the ground, with more than enough justification. The boy isn't on dope. He doesn't steal. What does this man want?

When Jeff returns home, he discovers that his good friend and mentor (Mako) has been murdered by members of the Korean underworld. Jeff, naturally, wants to avenge this crime, so he clenches his fists, puts on a T-shirt and begins to wipe up the town.

John Dye is Jeff's brother, who becomes a cop. He's not a very bright one, but sometimes you take what you can get, particularly in movies of this kind.

Speakman specializes in kenpo, an American refinement of the martial arts school. There is a lot of foot action, but there is a lot of hand action, too, some of it close to dance, Balinese dance. To the layman, most of it looks like the same old stuff. Maybe you have to be a student of the art to know one form from the other.

As an actor, Speakman is about as good as Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger were when they began their careers. He will, presumably, improve as he moves along.

Some of the people who sat through the screening were vociferous in their disapproval of the film. One man said it was slow, and another demanded that the theater return his money.

It's not that bad, but then it's not that good, either. It is showing at local theaters.

''The Perfect Weapon''

* A kenpo champion returns home to discover that his mentor has been murdered by members of the underworld.

CAST: Jeff Speakman, John Dye, Mako

DIRECTOR: Mark DiSalle

RATING: R (language, violence)

RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes

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