Monday, May 31, 2010

Jeff Speakman Binge

The Perfect Weapon (1991) * * *

Cast:Jeff Speakman, John Dye, James Hong, Mako, Professor Toru Tanaka, Mariska Hargitay, Beau Starr, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Directed by Mark DiSalle

Speakman stars as a martial arts expert who looks to avenge the death of his Korean mentor who was killed by the Korean mafia (led by Hong and carried out by the awesome Tanaka) in this fairly enjoyable kung fu effort that features some great martial arts sequences and contains a better story than usual that makes up for the dull and uncharismatic Jeff Speakman. Let’s be perfectly candid, Jeff Speakman doesn’t live up to the Schwarzenggers and Stallones, but he still seems less credible to the likes of martial arts stars that include Van Damme, Seagal,Norris, Lundgren and Dudikoff. Indeed one is hard pressed to wonder who the better actor is between Jeff Speakman and Lorenzo Lamas. Speakman wins out by a slight margin but man, is does this guy lack charisma. Indeed what makes such worse is that Speakman is supposedly Paramount’s answer to counteract the said listed action stars but while this vehicle is enjoyable, Speakman is a big time detractor to what could’ve been a great kung fu movie. The Perfect Weapon features excellent action sequences that make this worth the price of recommendation as the fight sequences are well staged and frequent enough to make this movie worthwhile but the truth remains that this studio production could’ve been better with a better star. Indeed Speakman is so lame as a hero that he manages to come off as not only not bad-ass enough, but not nearly tough enough to sell the audience of his worth as he is supposed to be all tough with tons of anger but he ends up coming off as a pouty teenager out for attention. It also doesn’t help that his character spends half of the film going after the wrong guy and trying to kill such bad guy before going on the right track as you would’ve figured one would want to be sure before killing someone. That said you can’t ask for much better production values then what you got here and as dopey and bland as Speakman is at least he can fight which is his only redeeming factor. The Perfect Weapon is enjoyable as kung fu actioners go and worth seeing for the Speakman shakedowns as well as the excellent cast that includes genre favorites Mako and Tanaka, but this could’ve been so much more and the reason the film is only decent instead of a classic is because of the lack of charisma of failed star Jeff Speakman. Indeed it stands to reason that this film would remain his best to date as only his next two movies were even remotely watchable. Paramount needed a star that could compete with the Van Dammes, Seagals, Norris’, Lundgrens and Dudikoffs but they settled on an actor that was on par with Olivier Gruner, Don “The Dragon” Wilson and David Bradley.

Street Knight (1993) * * *

Cast:Jeff Speakman, Christopher Neame, Jennifer Gatti, Bernie Casey

Directed by Albert Magnoli

Speakman stars in another enjoyable kung fu-fest which works despite his presence, Street Knight finds him as an ex-SWAT cop who works as a mechanic who finds himself the only one that stands between an all around drug war between Latino and Black gangs in which an uneasy truce has been formed, of course Speakman finds out that White gun dealers (and ex-cops) want to provoke a war so they can make money off the weapons deals. Once again Street Knight is an enjoyable movie worth seeing, despite the dull star who is an even worse actor than Don “The Dragon” Wilson but slightly better than Lorenzo Lamas. Once again the material elevates the dull Speakman to better than average status which makes one wonder if Speakman can even move his facial expressions. Once again we get involved in the chaos of the story because of so much momentum and action going on but it’s not the charisma of Speakman that sells this,  it's the action that is good if a tad derivative of Steven Seagal. Once again this is all fine and dandy as  decent kung fu movies go, but Street Knight  would be more distinctive and enjoyable if it had a better star than Jeff Speakman.   Indeed if not for the fight sequence where Speakman beats henchman down with a wrench this wouldn’t be recommended. Speakman romancing Gatti almost derails the film completely and almost always breaks up the momentum of the action. Still Speakman does beat up guys with two big wrenches and that this is one of the better Cannon movies from the 90s. 

The Expert (1995) * * *

Cast: Jeff Speakman, James Brolin, Alex Datcher, Elizabeth Gracen, Michael Shaner, Jim Varney

Directed by Rick Avery

Jeff Speakman stars as a SWAT officer who breaks into the prison to execute the murderer of his sister, after said criminal's death penalty is overturned in a movie that features some strong moments but is ultimately only decent because Speakman just doesn't work in the role.  Basically you watch the movie and enjoy such but one wishes a better actor was the lead.  The Expert features a great premise with lots of potential but ultimately such is floundered away by using such a story on such a lame actor. In this caseJeff Speakman  gives a typically wooden performance.  Once again a (very) good script would’ve been better used to the talents of Fred Williamson, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, but in the hands of Jeff Speakman we feel only so-so stakes being played as the usual right wing politics are played in a well directed and fast paced way. Indeed this story would’ve been a four-star movie in the likes of a better star as Speakman is just too dull in the lead to really showcase pain and suffering. Meanwhile Shaner is excellent in a Ted Bundy-ish role, Indeed his performance makes us wonder about the death penalty and whether we should agree with those who say we should kill those that we kill. In fact the whole cast is far better than Speakman which gets the viewer involved in the character's plight. Indeed Brolin, Shaner and Varney are so well suited to their roles that one wonders why they weren't given more screen time and how a far better actor (like Kurt Russell) would’ve been better in the lead role. Indeed while the action is good one can’t help but see how much better The Expert would be with a better star who could do justice to the revenge angle. Plus the questions The Expert tries to ask is killed by having our hero being so blank. That said I always find politics (right or left) fascinating in my action movies,  for example I enjoyed the politics of movies like Angel Town and Bloodfist III as such always gives the movie a watchable edge but this premise is let down mainly because Speakman isn’t brutal or  Everyday-man enough to sell the lead . To be fair Speakman is no worse than he ever is, it’s just that we need  is a hero who you see as being pushed to the limit and who registers sympathy and likability despite his plight. Speakman just can’t pull it off. In other words The Expert is a good movie but it didn't reach its potential.


  1. I think Speakman's an alright actor, not great but not awful either(though i've heard that he's difficult to work with due to having an ego problem) Anyways my favorite film of his would be Deadly Outbreak, though his best peformance was in Memorial Day IMO.

  2. I thought he was very charismatic as a bad guy in Striking Range. I'd like to see the second two films, because I don't remember Perfect Weapon being hurt by Speakman's performance, as opposed to just being a bad straight ahead actioner.

  3. Yeah he was one of the few good things about Striking Range, which was an otherwise dull and forgettable DTV film.

  4. He was also admittedly fine in a supporting role in Plato's Run. I have yet to see him as a villain and I agree that The Perfect Weapon is alot of fun, but you can't help but wish he was more charismatic. You know he just didn't have the screen presence as a hero, he was too bland. I'll check out Striking Range soon but I just I don't know. He isn't even terrible so much as he is unmemorable. He is just dull.

  5. This review was written with the help of Jim Beam hence why I need to go back and edit it. I think you can tell as you read how much more and more drunk I get.

  6. Definitely want to see The Expert. Love that Speakman, Brolin, and Varney are in one film!