It’s sad that Jeff Speakman was never able to obtain a full fledged career in Hollywood as an action star, because while his style of martial arts isn’t flashy, it certainly is fantastic to watch. Speakman had real charisma and passable acting chops to put him at the league of Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. It just never panned out. As a debut action film, “Perfect Weapon” is a fun and serviceable action film about redemption and revenge that Speakman carries on his own with flying colors. I wish we’d seen much higher budget fare with his later action vehicles, but at least his breakout is entertaining.
Speakman plays Jeff Sanders, a master of kenpo who’s spent most of his life trying to forget his terrible past in his home town with his family. A typical construction worker, he re-visits his old sensei Kim, who is having trouble with the local Korean mafia. Traveling back home, he remembers why he left, and sets out on a plan of revenge when, in an effort to help his mentor, results in his murder. Sanders now has to rely on his own resources to find the men that committed the murder, all the while touching base with his younger brother who is now heading the investigation and insists he go back home. Much of the film is based around the character Sanders thinking back to why he originally left, and they provide some interesting back story for Sanders, who’s revealed to be more of an anti-hero. This rings true during the flashbacks of Jeff training in kenpo, and eventually misusing it to fight a bully in his school that results in a vicious confrontation.
Speakman gives the character of Sanders a considerable empathy that makes it easy for audiences to root for him, and he’s able to form a very respectable protagonist. There are also very good supporting performances from Dantes Basco, Toru Tanaka, Mako, and Mariska Hargitay, the latter of whom is a gorgeous long lost friend of Jeff’s. The choreography is also pretty excellent, as Speakman engages in some truly dazzling fight scenes. The best of the bunch is Sanders’ rumble in a dojo, where he battles three martial arts experts in an effort to gain information about a local gang member’s hideout. Speakman really explodes with a great screen presence and it would have been great to see him show up in larger scale action pictures. That said, while “The Perfect Weapon” isn’t the most explosive of film debuts but it’s still a strong and entertaining martial arts action entry.