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MOVIE REVIEW : A 'Perfect Weapon' With Limits

March 18, 1991|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"The Perfect Weapon" (citywide) is a martial-arts action-thriller as efficient and mechanical as its star, newcomer Jeff Speakman, who is handsome, well-muscled, poised and stoical in the extreme. He plays a kenpo karate expert out to avenge the murder of his surrogate father (Mako), a Korean-born antiques dealer rubbed out by the Korean Mafia for refusing to allow his business to serve as a front for drug smuggling.

Fledgling screenwriter David Campbell Wilson's script is essentially a variation on the 1987 Martin Kove starrer "Steele Justice," only this time the bad guys are Koreans instead of Vietnamese. Once again, it seems that the only way for L.A.'s ethnic communities to make it on to the screen is in connection with the activities of their criminal elements. Mako and James Hong, the top villain of the piece, are exemplary as usual, Asian-American actors who long ago learned to make the most of their opportunities, investing their roles, no matter how limited, with wit, style and dignity.

As in the recent Jean-Claude Van Damme "Death Warrant," cinematographer Russell Carpenter, production designer Curtis Schnell and composer Gary Chang have made strong contributions.

Produced and directed by Mark DiSalle, an alumnus of the Van Damme movies "Kickboxer" and "Bloodsport," "The Perfect Weapon" (rated R for standard martial-arts violence, some language) moves well, and its many action and martial sequences are crisply staged. But unless you are a die-hard martial-arts fan, be prepared to be thoroughly bored by such a strictly by-the-numbers plot.

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