by Tim May
Weapons of Death is a great example of how to make a really fun martial arts movie without the benefit of an overwhelming presence like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. Though the cover purports Eric Lee to be the lead of the film, Weapons of Death is a true ensemble. Every character gets a moment to be the star.
A San Francisco mob boss named Fong has his eyes set on the richest family in Chinatown. They’ve always refused to pay him protection money, so he hires a ragtag group of mercenaries led by the mysterious Bishop to kidnap the family’s teenage daughter Angela. Bishop works primarily with his own group, including the mysterious Carter (who’s black—it’s important), but Fong insists on sending his own henchman Chong along to make sure the job goes smoothly. When Carter seems somewhat inebriated, racist dick Chong remarks, “I wish this was an all Chinese operation.”
Throughout the early part of the film, we are also introduced to the aforementioned rich family, whose fortune seems to have been amassed through a mildly successful dojo. There’s the seemingly unnamed matriarch, swordsman extrodinaire Eric, archer David, family friend/getaway driver Josh, soon-to-be-kidnapping-victim Angela, and Angela’s 48 year old boyfriend Paul (played by director Paul Kyriazi).
When they all fail to prevent Bishop and his goons from kidnapping Angela, her mother wants to be “just as ruthless” as their enemies are going to be, so she calls Curt, a poor man’s Elliot Gould who also happens to be Angela’s deadbeat dad and Eric and David’s former stepdad. Eric’s not too pleased about this, basically giving him the whole you’re-not-my-real-dad bitch and moaning session when he arrives.
Meanwhile, Bishop’s getaway van breaks down in the dessert and Angela escapes. Bishop’s boys spread out looking for her, and before long, Fong suspects trouble and sends out his own men to find out what’s going on. Angela runs into a surprisingly skeezy and rapey biker gang, who gang up on her, clearly with dubious intentions. Thankfully, before they can violate the poor girl, she finds a surprise guardian angel in Carter, who intervenes and lays waste to the entire gang in short order. Carter, being the noble motherfucker he apparently is, lets her go and returns to Bishop to rethink his life.
While Carter is revealing himself to be a king, Angela’s family is still bickering back at the house, but at least they’re developing a good unlikely team dynamic. When they finally leave to look for Angela, Curt drops a fucking BOMB! He’s not Angela’s real father; Bishop is! Years earlier, Bishop had broken into their house and raped Angela’s mother. That fiend! With a newfound resolve, everyone marches into battle with Fong’s gang. There are so many great fight scenes throughout Weapons of Death’s climax your head will be knocked through the ceiling. Bishop VS. Carter! Eric VS. Chong! Curt VS. Fong! Everybody plays a part an get their own badass moment, even David the Archer and Josh the getaway driver, who basically steal Eric and Curt’s thunder at the end of the movie.
The VHS was released in a slipcase by Paragon Video Productions, though it was sadly missing their typical trailer reel (which generally featured Boarding House and The Witching, among others). The back cover engages in some light Brucesploitation with the tagline, “A New Decade… A New Legend” underneath a picture of a shirtless Eric, looking his most Bruce Lee-ish.
The movie was directed by Paul Kyriazi, who, aside from directing three other martial arts movies, is also known for writing a “motivational” seminar called How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle.
Weapons of Death is a wonderful martial arts movie with a simple, but effective story, some exciting twists and turns, and a cast that goes hard. This movie always surprises with its unpredictability and it surprised me by how much I enjoyed it.