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The Perfect Weapon Reviews

Instead of the macho action heroes popularized by Van Damme, Seagal, and Lundgren, as well as elder statesman Chuck Norris, PERFECT WEAPON offers Jeff Speakman, a new breed of sensitive hero with a stronger appeal to women audiences. Most fist-and-foot-o-ramas only toss out stereotypical revenge motives, but this martial arts entry actually provides flashbacks that give its lead character Jeff Sanders (Speakman) some psychological underpinnings. At the urging of family friend Kim (Mako), who's troubled over Jeff's continued grieving over the death of his mother, Jeff is enrolled in a kendo school where he can channel his rage and anger. When young Jeff becomes proficient enough to be considered a lethal weapon, his hard-nosed father Carl (Beau Starr) boots him out so he won't exert a bad influence on his younger brother Adam (John Dye). Years later, after he rescues Kim from a gang of extortionists, Jeff is glad he studied so hard. When Kim is murdered by the determined thugs, Jeff finds that his penetration of the Korean mafia is stymied by brother Adam, who's become a cop. Local street kid Jimmy Ho (Dante Basco) also warns Jeff to mind his own business. By beating up everyone at a local gym and tearing up a private club, Jeff retrieves information from Yung (James Hong), an alleged good samaritan who claims to be a friend of the late, lamented Kim. Taking a cue from Yung, Jeff infiltrates a Korean mafia stronghold and almost kills the wrong businessman, who reveals that Yung is actually the villain responsible for Kim's death. Abetted by Adam, Jeff tries to intercept crimelord Yung before he flees the country, but they lose the creep during a car chase; Adam then winds up in the hospital after an altercation with Yung's massive bodyguard. During the climactic fight scene, Jeff knocks the hell out of the Godzilla-esque bodyguard and apprehends his quarry. Ultimately, Jeff slays Yung in self-defense. Having learned that moral codes take precedence over the law of the streets, Jeff has avenged Kim's death and will probably be able to make peace with his estranged father. While no slouch in the body-beautiful department, Jeff Speakman possesses brains and brawn in equal measure and seems bathed in an almost courtly aura. Despite the lack of a strong central romance, his appeal to women isn't hard to fathom. Dashing, lithe, self-possessed and sporting a sad-eyed demeanor that suggests he's been wounded by life, he portrays a man who must be driven to violence, unlike other action heroes who resort to violence as a matter of course. Fortunately, Speakman registers as articulate--he isn't hobbled by Van Damme's accent problems or by the mush-mouthed acting of Norris or by Seagal's rampant egotism. A down-to-earth, sincere knight in martial arts togs, Speakman has enough slow-burning magnetism to make PERFECT WEAPON reasonably entertaining. No slouch in the footwork department either, Speakman's fancy self-defense maneuvers are the highlights of PERFECT WEAPON. In other films that specialize in bone-breaking, you can't wait to get to the hot spots. Here, you're content to spend time with Speakman as he banters with his brother or tangles with a rogue's gallery of Asian villains. Rather than simply propping up a sagging action flick, the punch-and-kick segments key into our involvement with the quest of the hero. Because we care about his internal conflicts, the smartly edited fight scenes deliver more than the usual punch power. Due to Speakman's reassuring personality and some above average acting by ace bad guy James Hong and by surrogate father figure Mako, PERFECT WEAPON draws action fans into its Eastern re-imagining of a traditional Western complete with showdowns and a hero who has to get the job done all by himself. It's not perfect, but PERFECT WEAPON at least furnishes action aficionados with a hero who has a life beyond the floormat of a kung fu school. Speakman may augur a new breed of action hero--a 90s kind of fella who's survived both martial arts classes and sensitivity training sessions. Men will be enthusiastic over his fast footwork; women will be impressed by his ability to carry on an intelligent conversation. (Violence, profanity.)