Memorial Day (1998)

MemorialDayCoverKenpo legend Jeff Speakman is of course famous for his legendary Kenpo movie The Perfect Weapon. He is not famous for other movies such as The Expert, Scorpio One or Deadly Outbreak. I think I knew what the hell Kenpo was back in the early 1990s, but I don’t have the slightest idea what it entails anymore. Probably something with sticks and lots of grunting and kicking.

Who needs that boring old Kenpo anyway when you’re fighting a killer satellite thousands of miles above the Earth? What? Speakman vs. killer satellite? This will surely be a Memorial Day we will never forget!

Except that even though they mentioned Memorial Day about three times in the movie, I still had no idea what it had do with anything or why the movie was titled Memorial Day except that maybe they tricked the government into letting them shoot some scenes at Arlington by pretending it was a film to honor our war dead. And in a way it did honor the dead. The dead careers of several people involved that is.

There’s Bruce Weitz who is best known for playing Mick Belker in Hill Street Blues a thousand years ago. He plays Speakman’s old mentor Jules.

Throughout the film, the main heavy is referred to as Number One and his identity is not disclosed until near the end of the film. As soon as the movie begins we assume that Number One is really Jules and that he’s going to pull the ultimate double cross on his old pal Speakman. And we assume correctly. Thanks, dogbreath.

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The part of General Willard is played by Paul Mantee. It was his last role and he was the star of the infinitely superior Robinson Crusoe On Mars.

You’ve also got the female lead, whose main skill is her funny-looking nose and a complete lack of screen presence that’s nicely complimented by Speakman’s own lack of screen presence.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking Speakman. He’s doing what he’s asked to, running up and down stairs, rappelling from the ceiling, punching guys in the balls, and shooting all comers. It’s just that he seems to have two emotions: perturbed and mildly perturbed.

He does show more range than someone like Steven Seagal since he’s wearing a leather jacket in this one while he wore a jean jacket in The Expert. He also quotes Shakespeare a lot in this movie. There’s really nothing better than having the Bard’s words shoehorned in amongst the banal action dialogue about conspiracies, the Agency, and Space Shuttle launches.

The premise of the film is one of those stupidly complicated plots designed solely for the purpose of having Speakman trying to save the United States from rogue agents intent on getting bigger budgets for their intelligence operations.

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With the Cold War having ended, defense expenditures are being slashed and departments are being downsized. Jules gets the idea to create a fake terrorist group to scare the country into increasing the funding and powers of the groups he’s involved with.

He aims to do this by using a secret killer satellite to blow up stuff like a space station, a submarine, and the place in Hawaii that built the satellite in the first place.

Seven years before all of this, Speakman found out about the satellite and tattled to the media. The agency discredited him as a marine with mental problems and had him locked up in an insane asylum for the next seven years. And it wasn’t one of those nice asylums where you sit in the garden all day soaking up the sun and watching nurses. This was one of those asylums where the doctors would give you shock therapy and say “no pain, no gain!”

Apparently having this stuff blown up wasn’t sufficient for Jules because the next part of his plan involved brainwashing Speakman into assassinating a presidential candidate who was unwittingly aiding Jules in this whole fake terrorist scheme.

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But what Jules didn’t count on was that he was going to have Speakman try to assassinate this guy while he was being interviewed by the very same pig-nosed reporter that Speakman squealed to all those years before!

Seeing her jogs Speakman’s real memory and he doesn’t kill the guy, thus setting the stage for about an hour of Speakman running around steam tunnels and killing Jules’ thugs.

The movie also suffers from way too much non-Speakman time. How many interviews between Pig Nose and the presidential candidate did we have to sit through? Three or four? I thought I was watching Meet the Press!

Even worse were all the cutaways to Number One and his general buddy where they discussed how nefarious their scheme was. I’m not really looking for two old guys sitting around a darkened conference room rehashing their idiotic plans every ten minutes during what is supposed to be a Jeff Speakman vs. killer satellite movie!

Recommended if you just fast forward to Speakman’s way too infrequent outbursts of violence. Watching on normal speed will leave the viewer asking “O Speakman, Speakman! Wherefore art thou Speakman?”

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