The Perfect Weapon (2016)


USA/UK. 2016.


Director – Titus Paar, Screenplay – Alex Brenner, Jesse Cilio, Ulysses Oliver & Titus Paar, Producers – Brandon Burrows, Courtney Lauren Penn, Rafael Primorac & Andre Relis, Photography – Mark Rutledge, Music – Simon K├Âlle, Visual Effects Supervisor – Bejoy Arputharaj. S, Visual Effects – Phantomfx, Special Effects Supervisor – Alex Hill, Production Design – Mark Terry. Production Company – Aramis Films/The Fyzz Factory/Boundless Pictures


Johnny Messner (Condor/Axon Ray), Sasha Jackson (Nina), Steven Seagal (The Director), Richard Tyson (Controller), Vernon Wells (The Interrogator), Lance E. Nichols (Balthazar White), Philip Fornah (Cronus), Sandra Yap (Kyoko Oshima)


It is the year 2029. Under the authoritarian leader known as The Director, the populace is kept under heavy surveillance. Axon Ray, codenamed Condor, is a programmed killer for The Director’s security forces. Asked to eliminate a rebel politician, Condor is brought in for questioning after he leaves one witness alive. It is decided that he needs to be reprogrammed and his memory wiped. Instead, Condor makes an escape. He then discovers Nina, the girl he loved but thought had been killed, and springs her from jail. In a heavily armed flight from security forces, they are recaptured only for Condor to discover that a rebel faction want to use him as the perfect weapon to assassinate The Director.

Steven Seagal was a former martial arts instructor who became a big name action star in the 1990s, appearing in a string of films that included Above the Law (1988), Hard to Kill (1990), Marked for Death (1990), Out for Justice (1991), Under Siege (1992) and On Deadly Ground (1994), among others. The surprise is given how the action film crosses over so much with genre material these days that Steven Seagal has only had occasional brushes with content that has been reviewed here. Both Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) and The Patriot (1998) were action films that featured techno-thriller elements – respectively Seagal dealing with satellite-beamed weaponry and germ warfare terrorism. More substantially, Flight of Fury (2007) was a techno-thriller with Seagal in a plot to retrieve a stolen radar-invisible plane and Submerged (2005) involved mind-controlled soldiers. The most substantial genre offering Seagal has made was Against the Dark (2009) set in a post-civilised future where he is facing off against a horde of zombies.

Most of the abovementioned can be considered science-fiction films in the sense of what Bruce Sterling calls Slipstream Science-Fiction – that is to say are science-fiction because they piggyback in on the shoulders of other genres. The Perfect Weapon – not related to or to be confused with the earlier non-genre Jeff Speakman film The Perfect Weapon (1991) – can be considered Seagal’s most complete science-fiction-identifying work so far. The film is set in a dystopian future and Seagal plays the villain of the show for one of the few times in his career rather than his usual action hero – namely the dictator of the future. While this looks like Seagal trying to stretch his range, the results are ridiculous. Seagal, who had turned 64 when The Perfect Weapon was released, looks over the hill. He is beefy and badly overweight in his action scenes, while his head of hair and goatee look very obviously like they have been thickly dyed to make him look younger. Seagal plays all of his scenes while wearing a set of blue blocker glasses. Even more laughably, all of his dialogue consists of pseudo-Zen aphorisms and pieces of advice that you have the feeling were lines that Seagal improvised on the set. He only gets a single action scene – more of a tussle – where he engages Johnny Messner in a brief fight to disarm him.

Though he is top-billed, Steven Seagal is negligible to The Perfect Weapon. All of the action scenes are carried by Johnny Messner. Here the film has simply written in a standard programmed soldier plot – in fact, outfitted in suit and with shaven head, you cannot help but think that Messner resembles Agent 47 from the Hitman films (and videogames). Titus Paar, a newcomer director from Sweden, has an enthusiasm when it comes to the action scenes but at the same time the ones he delivers lack credibility – like Sasha Jackson standing out in the open with no protection or shelter facing fire from military-grade assault weapons on both sides and yet managing to remain untouched while eliminating all of the attackers who are wearing body armour.

The plot involving Condor is very standard and by the book. In fact, The Perfect Weapon is disappointingly negligible as a science-fiction film. It has zero interest in depicting the background of the future – it is a generic dystopia but we learn nothing about it other than that Steven Seagal is the dictator and that it is a future where there is a good deal of surveillance and drones patrolling the sky. Even the super-soldier plot is by the numbers – Johnny Messner is capable of being reprogrammed and his emotions are considered a liability – but when it comes to the script’s big surprise reveal where we learn the truth, this is a yawn-inducing twist that we have seen before.

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