- Directed by Luis Llosa
- October 7, 1994
A young woman entices a bomb expert into helping her kill the criminals that murdered her family nearly ten years before.
The Specialist is one of those movies that is so bad it is good. What this film tries to do is make Sylvester Stallone into a bomb making James Bond type. They even got John Barry to do the music. Strangely it is surprisingly entertaining with Sly as Ray Quick who is facing off against James Woods at his most James Woods as Ray’s former colleague and nemesis Ned Trent.
Sharon Stone joins the fun as May Munro/Adrian Hastings-a woman whose family was killed by Tomas Leon (Eric Roberts), son of notorious mob boss Joseph “Joe” Leon (Rod Steiger) when she was young. It is framed as about ten years before, but I do not buy Sharon Stone in her mid-20s. Just sayin’…
Trent and Ray have a beef going back to their time in The Agency (which is maybe once in this whole film referred to as the CIA). It sounds so much more sinister when you call the CIA The Agency. To set up the conflict between the two it is shown in the opening moments of the film that Trent was willing to kill an entire family on a dam in Bogota, Colombia just to get to the one drug lord but Ray with his code and all that said “No! No! No!” but they died anyway even though he tried to save them.
In the present Ray apparently takes out bad guys when no one else can help (that sounds a bit like The Equalizer television series) and sultry voiced May Munro has been attempting to contact him by posting on Internet message boards. I am a little unclear what May’s parents did to draw the ire of the Leon family crime syndicate. Her motivation is the murder of her mother and father but what did they do? I do not need a specific answer, but it would be nice to have something alluded to.
The Specialist appears to be a pretty straightforward Stallone action film of the time until a bit out of left field we learn that Trent is using May to draw out Ray so that Trent can get revenge on Ray because Ray reported Trent about the Bogota incident and got him kicked out of The Agency. If that feels a little convoluted, you are right because it is. But yet this movie still manages to be entertaining. It has a lot of long scenes of dialogue and moments that try to sound deep but really are not yet it’s still an entertaining watch. Watching these two masters of their particular character types face off against each other in their heyday is great and that is largely where the magic stems from.
Maybe it is also because of Ray’s preferred method of execution. Controlled exposes are a pretty spectacular way to take out your targets. You are making a statement more than eliminating a threat. They play that aspect up with each kill. They show one dude getting his head launched through a fish tank for example.
And at this time in film there was no better on-screen asshole, villain or otherwise, than James Woods. He played the jerk in just about every movie he was in that I can think of and he was very good at it. When he was a villain and a jerk he was spectacular. Facing off against the steely eyed hero that Sylvester Stallone generally played created something special.
Eric Roberts is a fine actor, but he never really got a role that made his career pop. He keeps getting work, but he is not at the level I think he should be. I think he is a better actor than his sister, but she has had better marketing. He turns in good performances and improves the material. He is good as the dangerous Tomas.
To find an A-List actor like Rod Steiger in an action film at this at the time was a real treat. Such names would pop up in one of these movies to give it a veneer of respectability. I am not complaining about that because at the minimum Stallone and Schwarzenegger brought their A-Game with their interactions with these actors. For the rest of the action stars of the era it was a 50-50 shot.
The dialogue is a bit hammy and over the top and the direction is, well, much like a James Bond film of the era and I loved those. This is not necessarily a superspy film, but it has a similar tone and similar feel and as I said before it is helped by John Barry doing the film score. He did the music for 11 of the James Bond films.
In the closing moments of the film after final vengeance is dispatched on the last of the Leon family, Gloria Estefan’s version of “Turn the Beat Around” plays over the end credits as Ray and May/Adrian are driving off to a happily ever after. It is a great song, but it just does not fit in with the movie. Action movies of the time did that way too much. It might be a very serious film filled with dangerous characters and then some weird poppy or upbeat or even a love song with absolutely no linguistic connection to the events of the film would play.
Director Luis Llosa is not a man of quality. His association with Roger Corman is evidence of that. He was not someone connected to Oscar contenders. The Specialist may be schlock, but it is enjoyable schlock. These are two over the top characters facing off in an ever-escalating scenario with a mysterious and dangerous woman thrown in the mix from when Stone was the go-to sultry or dangerous femme fatale.
The Specialist is an entertaining film. It is not the greatest movie ever, but it is certainly worth a view so watch it!