More like a direct-to-video exploitation movie on a grand scale than a major theatrical release, THE SPECIALIST is a glossy but surpassingly tacky movie. Its only appeal is to viewers who take the so-bad-it's-good approach to films in which the plot, dialogue, and mise-en-scene conspire at
every turn to defeat their suspension of disbelief.
In 1984, Ray Quick (Sylvester Stallone) and Ned Trent (James Woods), CIA explosives experts, are in the middle of a mission to blow up a South American drug dealer. But when the dealer's car appears, there's a little girl in it. Ray wants to abort the mission, but Ned intends to see it through,
and the sequence ends with Ray and Ned at one another's throats. Flash forward to present-day Miami, where Ray is making a living as a freelance hitman. Desperate people contact him by computer, and he only takes the cases he wants. Ray's work is distinguished by its precision; he specializes in
building and planting bombs that blow up only the intended target, leaving innocent bystanders shaken but unharmed.
Against his better judgment, Ray is persuaded to take the case of May Munro (Sharon Stone), a sleek, panty-less temptress whose parents were killed by Miami drug lord Joe Leon (Rod Steiger). May wants revenge, and loner Ray agrees to help, even though she's determined to stay close by so she can
savor her revenge. Complicating matters, Ned, who is now working for Leon, immediately recognizes Ray's signature explosive style. Ned is jockeying for power within the family, particularly in relation to Joe's son Tomas (Eric Roberts), and intends to use the situation to curry favor with Leon,
while also exacting personal revenge (Ray, we learn, got him fired after that last mission). Meanwhile, Ray and May are falling in love, despite her insistence that she's no good for him. Betrayal follows betrayal: May turns out to be a pawn in Ned's plan for vengeance on Ray, but she
double-crosses Ned to save her lover, who must then rescue her from Ned's fiendish clutches. The film ends in a vast confusion of high-tech explosions that leave the nefarious Ned scattered all over the greater Miami area, and May and Ray free to anticipate a quiet future together.
THE SPECIALIST is a thriller only in the broadest sense of the term. Though it deals in Cuban gangsters, shady ladies, killers for hire, and all manner of violence, it's more like a video game than a movie, a brightly colored concoction of noise and graphics cut loose from the conventional
constraints of narrative and characterization. The principal characters are entirely defined by their surfaces: Ray is a brooding slab of a man who's got to do what a man's got to do; Ned's a chattering, pock-marked ankle-biter of an antagonist; May's a sensual vision too perfect to be perfectly
bad--if she were as wicked as she seems she'd have to die, and that would never do. THE SPECIALIST brings them up on screen and lets them spin around until something happens, which it does with monotonous regularity, then pops them back up for some more.
The third major movie of 1994 featuring explosives experts--it followed BLOWN AWAY and SPEED--THE SPECIALIST follows all the conventions of the direct-to-video erotic thriller, which is not surprising in light of director Luis Llosa's background in such films, but does seem out of character for
most of the cast. Sharon Stone, still exploiting her BASIC INSTINCT persona, exists largely as a collection of soft curves around which to wrap an apparently endless variety of painfully short, tight, translucent garments. Her sex scene with Stallone, in a hotel shower, is very naked but
absolutely unarousing. Stallone's character is predictably inarticulate and true to his own personal code of honor; he may blow up people for a living, but when creeps are disrespectful to a woman on the bus, he's her knight in reflecting sunglasses. The sequence in which Stallone, stripped to the
waist, strikes provocative tai-chi poses while remembering a phone conversation with May, achieves a level of tacky salaciousness seldom seen in theatrical films. Rod Steiger delivers a particularly embarrassing performance; his idea of a Cuban accent produces many of the film's funniest lines,
including "Joo must keel thees esplosives espert," delivered with a theatrical hiss that would shame many a lesser actor. (Violence, profanity, nudity, sexual situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: More like a direct-to-video exploitation movie on a grand scale than a major theatrical release, THE SPECIALIST is a glossy but surpassingly tacky movie. Its only appeal is to viewers who take the so-bad-it's-good approach to films in which the plot, dialo… (more)