Action Heroes – Stallone: The Specialist

Having realized that Sylvester Stallone was going down the tubes in the 1990’s I never bothered watching The Specialist upon its original release. Having just had to watch it for Filmwerk I personally feel I made the right choice back in 1994. Sly stars as explosive expert Ray Quick who finds himself on the wrong side of former partner Ned Trent (James Woods) when they disagree about the validity of killing bystanders. Ray you see is an ethical killer who devises bombs that only kill those they were intended for.

This ridiculous revenge thriller has Sly teaming up with the then hot Sharon Stone against the mob run by Joe Leon (Rod Steiger) and his son Tomas (Eric Roberts). True to form the moment you see Eric Roberts in a film you know things are about to go downhill very fast and they do. Also in the mix is former partner Ned now working for the bomb squad, who is trying to coax Ray out of hiding.

The narrative follows the old school axiom of if you can’t convince them; confuse them by virtually going off to Twin Peaks territory before coming to a conclusion. At one point I had no idea who was dead or alive, sitting down wishing to the almighty that everyone was dead and the credits would role. Sadly this wasn’t the case and Sly and Stone eventually dish out the revenge that the bad dudes had coming.

The performances are all pretty awful, Roberts naturally at the head of the field, and the lack of fire between the two leads is funny as hell. Stone had burned down the screen in Basic Instinct only to find herself re-cast time and again as the ultimate on screen sex machine. The shower scene between her and Sly is uncomfortable to the point of making me almost feel sorry for the pair of them, even though they’re being paid millions.

Amazingly the film performed well at the box office which is about as unfathomable as it gets really given the astounding lack of narrative clarity and visual quality. The Specialist just goes to show that Hollywood executives seemingly know what they are doing even if it appears mildly insane. Watching it now for the first time I cannot work out for the life of me how this film ever made any money or why anyone would rate it at all.

Sylvester Stallone has by today returned to prominence thanks to his two enduring characters Rocky and Rambo. The Expendables was another recent hit and is now set for a sequel and not unlike The Specialist I have no understanding of this either. The Specialist is below average at best with little in the way of actual action and plenty in the way of stupid plotting and desperate acting. Without a doubt in my mind I would like to declare that I will never willingly watch this film again, even under duress I would have to think twice.

Aled Jones

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