Deadly Weapon (1989)
AKA Killer Kid
Starring Rodney Eastman, Kim Walker, Gary Frank, Michael Horse, Gary Kroeger, Barney Martin, Sam Melville, Joe Regalbuto, William Sanderson, Ed Nelson
Directed by Michael Miner
Expectations: Not much, but it’s a remake of Laserblast so hopefully there are lots of explosions!
Most films hold their secrets back from the viewer, but Deadly Weapon reveals quite a big one right in the opening moments. Through on-screen text we learn that the entire film takes place in the mind of a 15-year-old boy. So any and all incredulity can be attributed to this, and boy does this movie go over the top! But while whatever we’re watching is supposedly only inside Zeke’s mind, I feel like there was also a more mundane version of the events playing out in “real life.” Nothing in the movie suggests or references this, I just chose to interpret the film’s exaggeration of everything as what they looked or felt like to Zeke in a heightened, hallucinatory state, similar to how a kid and an adult will remember the same event somewhat differently.
Zeke is an outcast kid who is bullied and beaten down by everyone in his life. He’s powerless against these people, but one day he finds an Army crate in the river outside of town. And what might be inside this crate? Well, some dumb ol’ office supplies are on top, but hidden underneath them is an experimental ray gun! Now Zeke’s got the power to fight back, and that’s exactly what he does! If that sounds at all familiar, it’s because Deadly Weapon is a remake of one of my favorite Charles Band films: Laserblast!
The basics of the story are similar to Laserblast, but Deadly Weapon differs in significant ways. The weapon is of Army origin instead of an alien weapon, which might seem like a cursory difference but it actually causes the films to take different courses and feel completely different. While the kid in Laserblast roams the countryside exploding everything in sight, contracting some kind of space sickness along the way, the Deadly Weapon kid holes up in his local arcade with a bunch of hostages and his newly acquired girlfriend. Huh? How does he LASERBLAST stuff if it’s suddenly a siege movie?
The quick answer is that he doesn’t, but to be fair there are a couple of good, old-fashioned LASERBLASTs. They are definitely not the main attraction, although Deadly Weapon does deal out some explosively ridiculous plot points and characters. For instance, when Zeke takes his hostages to the arcade, he strides over to a pinball machine and rips out its insides. When he’s extracted a suitable length of wire (who knew how much wiring there was inside a pinball machine!), he wraps it around his hostages and then plugs it in to electrify it. Does that make any kind of sense? Who knows, maybe it is plausible. I’ve never actually tried to do it, so what so I know!
Amidst all these strange hostage shenanigans, Zeke also manages to seduce his bully’s gorgeous girlfriend into totally falling for him. I know this is all happening in his head, but when she went head over heels for him I couldn’t help but wonder about her own sanity and/or trauma history. At first she’s involved with the jerk bully, and now she’s seduced by the allure of a mentally unstable guy with a ray gun who’s taking hostages? She needs some help! But a boy with a ray gun can dream, so the pair does fall for each other, and they even have a slow dance in the arcade!
A movie this batshit should be super entertaining, but instead I barely made it through the whole thing. I can respect the conceit that they were creating this weird power-hungry fantasy within the kid’s head, but it doesn’t really work because Zeke is never properly endeared to the audience. I relate to him as an outcast, but when he starts taking hostages, it’s hard to understand why he’s doing it or have any desire to follow along with him. And who fantasizes about a siege with government? He’s given many reasons for wanting to lash out at the world, but even in his deluded mental fantasies he paints himself into a situation where his seemingly ultimate power is in question.
Deadly Weapon is technically a better produced film than Laserblast (it looks more professional, there aren’t long stretches of absolutely nothing happening, etc.), but there’s an undeniable charm to the trashiness of Laserblast that is completely missing in Deadly Weapon. Deadly Weapon may have been produced in 1987 for theatrical release under the Empire Pictures banner, but it REALLY feels like one of Full Moon’s early direct-to-video efforts. I’m guessing that’s one reason it was held and only released DTV in 1989? Who knows… and really, who cares? But when a movie as bad as this is released around the same time as the implosion of Empire, it’s easy to understand why that happened. They weren’t all Trancers or Re-Animator, that’s for sure!
And all this from the co-writer of RoboCop! You’d never in a million years guess that anyone related to that masterwork of a film had anything to do with Deadly Weapon, but it’s true! Truth is stranger than fiction, even the batshit insane mental fantasies of a 15-year-old outcast that has rock ‘n’ roll lead guitar punctuating the “cool” moments!
If you like Laserblast and you’re looking for more LASERBLAST action, definitely give a look to David DeCoteau’s 1997 remake, Alien Arsenal, instead of watching Deadly Weapon.
Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be looking at the movie I was going to watch this time, but Full Moon Streaming decided to remove it so I had to get it from Netflix (which took a little while)… David DeCoteau’s Dr. Alien! See ya then!