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‘The Perfect Weapon’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 18, 1991

Jeff Speakman is "The Perfect Weapon," a kenpo karate master bound by the discipline's credo of readiness: "Anytime ... anyplace ... anywhere." Since anyplace and anywhere are synonymous, perhaps they should consider changing it to "Anytime ... Anyplace ... Anything." Speakman, you see, not only humbles his human foes, he shows an overstuffed davenport a thing or two.

Speakman plays Jeff Sanders, a martial artist who left home as a teenager after a fight with his father. Looking for meaning in his life, he returns home to reestablish ties with his old mentor (Mako), a Korean American whose sudden murder sets the story in motion. Following up on a tip, the hero almost wreaks vengeance on the wrong man. But the detour allows him an opportunity to kick the kimchi out of the many Korean hoods who stand in his path.

Aided by his estranged brother (John Dye), a policeman, and a plucky Korean orphan (Dante Basco), Jeff uncovers an underground drug ring in Little Korea. His hot temper almost wrecks things for him, but it is the struggle to control his mood swings that feeds the karate movie zeitgeist, the harmonious union of spirit, mind and body. "You have learned one-half of what I taught," says another old teacher, Lo, in a flashback to Jeff's younger days at the dojo.

Unlike Rambo, Jeff-o takes on no romantic interests whatsoever, which is probably fine with his audience. It is after all far more in keeping with the genre for him to prance about alone with his shirt off, his muscles gleaming with oil. And though he has clearly been hitting the Nair, Speakman flouts the current vogue for hairlessness, revealing an attractively groomed brunet chest.

Speakman, who studied under grand master Ed Parker, is introducing not only himself but the kenpo form to the screen. A fourth-degree black belt, he performs his own stunts, and that's important, as "The Perfect Weapon" is basically one long stunt. Mark DiSalle, known for "Kickboxer," "Bloodsport" and "Death Warrant," produced and directed from David Campbell Wilson's first screenplay. It's got a little kick to it.

"The Perfect Weapon" is rated R for violence and language.

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