Retro Film Review: The Specialist (1994)
Phrase "high concept" is profanity in the vocabulary of many of today's film critics. But even such, most despised category of Hollywood bad movies has certain layers of sub-categories. There are "high concept" movies based on a single idea, or single storyline or plot. In case of The Specialist, 1994 action thriller directed by Luis Llosa there wasn't even such original idea. High concept was simply in pairing two popular actors of the time – action superstar Sylvester Stallone and blonde bombshell Sharon Stone. Result was, of course, predictable, but hardly anyone expected the critics to massacre film with such ferocity.
Stallone here plays Ray Quick, CIA bomb expert who retired after accidentally killing innocent people and now lives in Miami with his cat. Sharon Stone plays May Munr , beautiful woman determined to avenge the deaths of her parents, killed by Miami crime lord Tomas Leon (played by Eric Roberts). Two of them never meet and only they exchange messages through BBS. Ray agrees to use his talents in order to help her get her revenge and begins the bombing campaign against the bad guys. That bombing campaign brings attention of Ray's old and corrupt colleague Ned Trent (played by James Woods), who is willing to mobilise entire Miami police force to get him. Later, it would turn out that May's motives aren't so clear.
Based on the novel by John Shirley, the screenplay by Alexandra Seros offers standard, formulaic plot with cardboard characters and couple or predictable plot twists. The actors aren't very interested in their roles – Stallone is wooden, and Sharon Stone (unlike in her future roles) offers nothing more than her good looks. Speaking about later, film also features steamy sex scene between two protagonists, the element almost obligatory in any major production Ms. Stone had during the particular period of her career. The scene was well-done, but bellow the standards set by Verhoeven in Basic Instinct. Other actors are also rather unispired, to say the least - Roberts plays standard cardboard villain and veteran Rod Steiger is laughable as Latino godfather. The show is stolen by James Woods whose overacting scenes actually brings some life into this dull and predictable motion picture. The explosions are, however, well-done, although some of the special effects seem corny. Not interested in plot and characters, director Llosa, who used to do much better work in 1993 Sniper, tries to make impression by providing noirish atmosphere of Miami. That effort partially fails and the musical score by John Barry, which is good as always, only reminds the audience that there were much better films out there. There are, of course, much worse films out there, and this film perhaps didn't deserve its horrible reputation, but very few people should have to endure watching The Specialist just in order to come to such conclusion.
RATING: 3/10 (+)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies.reviews on June 5th 1999)
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