When was it during The Expert that I realized I was watching the “Most Underrated Jeff Speakman Movie I Only Vaguely Remember Hearing About When It Came Out?” Was it when Speakman took his date to the museum with the giant statute of a woman who represented justice or liberty or whatever and proclaimed that he came for the solitude? Or was it when the warden of a prison proudly announced to the gathered media that he had catered that night’s execution? Surely, it had to be that time when Speakman was run over by a car in an alley behind a bar and then proceeded to beat the holy hell out of the four guys inside of it – all while rocking a kick ass jean jacket!
Each of these moments were surely evidence that I was probably in the presence of unsung action movie greatness. What really drove the point home like a Speakman-delivered roundhouse kick to the ugly face of a hillbilly killer though was when Speakman went to visit his buddy Snake.
Snake was a greasy-haired scuzzball who ran Gun City USA and who had known Speakman back when they were both in the “Industry.” Snake is basically Speakman’s Q, providing him all the deadly gear he needs to invade a prison to kill a guy whose death row sentence has been commuted. (As Speakman sagely points out, prisons are built to keep people in, not out!)
As Snake describes the night vision thingy, the dry suit (Speakman’s assault on the prison will be via the adjoining river), the radio jamming equipment, and the rubber inflatable duffel bag, he also takes time to offer Speakman some advice.
After letting Speakman know that personal stuff is risky business, he concludes by adding “you stay pro!” Has there ever been not only a better line, but a better piece of advice? Wouldn’t we all experience a bit more success in our own lives if we “stayed pro” during times of crisis? The fact Snake is played by Jim “Ernest” Varney only cements “you stay pro” as my new personal mantra, replacing WWJCVDD (What Would Jean-Claude Van Damme Do?).
Speakman, whose The Perfect Weapon spawned a national obsession with Kenpo for about a week in late March, 1991, plays a guy who is an expert at tactics, shooting, and all around ass whupping.
He kills time by training SWAT teams and also has a sister he lives with. His sister is introduced just long enough for her to be viciously murdered, giving Speakman an opportunity to take the law into his own hands when the System gives the slimy bastard who cut his kid sister’s throat all these breaks.
Normally, in these “criminals have more rights than victims” revenge dramas, there’s always some technicality that allows someone to go free. Usually, some slick lawyer exploits the cops’ incompetence to get the charges thrown out.
While I might be cheering Speakman on in his quest to perpetrate some vigilante justice on this scumbag if he was released because of an illegal search or suppressed confession, I was positively bloodthirsty for some extreme prejudice when the fancy pants state psychologist-turned-warden convinced the governor that because this guy had multiple personalities he should be transferred to some sweet facility where he could be treated. Then, once he was a little better, he would be released to go out and give speeches to high schools and colleges about mental illness! What a cool assembly that would be!
Speakman avenging his sister’s murder is admittedly a fairly routine story, but The Expert fleshes it out with several remarkable touches. Like when his sister attempts to fight off her attacker with a cheese grater! Don’t laugh! The DNA on it matched the killer’s and help convict him!
Another moment you’ll be relieving again and again with your fellow Speakman fans is the scene where Speakman has to try and pick out the killer from a police line up and does it by smashing his way through the one-way mirror and trying to kill him! Guess we can mark that down as positive I.D.!
But it isn’t just Speakman’s pleasantly bland, but thankfully super violent presence that livens things up! James Brolin shines as the over-the-top warden who regularly taunts prisoners headed to the electric chair, starts executions like it was some kind drag race by dropping a hankie, and is in constant conflict with the psychologist who is taking over his job as warden once everyone is moved to the new prison facility.
Sure, a lot of The Expert doesn’t have much to do with Speakman and then when Speakman is involved, it doesn’t have much to do with anything advancing the plot, but who cares when it’s this good? Case in point: Speakman’s cop buddy takes him to a parole hearing for a killer, just so Speakman can familiarize himself with the process. Keep in mind that at this time, his sister’s killer hasn’t even gone to trial yet, let alone be eligible for parole!
At the parole hearing, the convict’s crazy family shows up, killing people and taking the governor hostage! Speakman manages to kill four people, including kicking a guy out a window and shotgunning a woman several times! The whole sequence was utterly pointless, but was also utterly awesome!
Speakman’s fights are pretty exciting with a lot of punching, kicking and some arm-snapping. He slices up a guy with a knife, knees guys in the nuts, and fights hanging from the roof of the prison. He also finds time to romance a reporter and even manages to go on a drinking binge!
It’s a good-looking atmospheric film and a special note must be made of the most overwrought soundtrack you’ll ever hear. Bombastically threatening, the score treated every scene like Moses was coming down the mountain with 20 commandments! But I loved it! You know why? Because I stayed pro!
© 2013 MonsterHunter