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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Retro Review: The Specialist (1994)

The Specialist
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Eric Roberts 
Genre: Spy Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $170 million 

Plot: A woman entices a bomb expert she's involved with into destroying the mafia who killed her family

'Not So Special'

As I was watching The Specialist I couldn't help but realise that this should've been an excellent action film; in fact, it functions as a thriller, but besides that and the massive explosions, this film doesn't have a lot to offer that the whole thing became a chore to sit through and watch. With its below par script, it really felt like a B-movie action film. It just didn't blow me away.

The plot itself is not memorable: Sly Stallone is Ray Quick, a former CIA explosives specialist and Sharon Stone is May Munro: a woman hell-bent on exacting revenge on the men who killed her parents when she was a little girl. In order to do that, May hires Ray (hey that rhymes) and the way this story is told is both through flashbacks and present day. However, this only leads to confusion and bewilderment, because the story itself is so badly written and conceived. 

The first 5 mins gave the impression that I would be in for quite a ride and that this film will be loaded with action, great stunts and battles and great acting galore, along with some depth. Yet as the more I got into it, no sooner was I inundated with scenes where characters talk to each other that I didn't care for, dull dialogue and the film being really flat and lifeless. Given the serious mood, it supposedly evokes, the film itself still comes off as being too dumb -yet melodramatic to be taken seriously. Even the scene where Ray is shirtless and does some martial arts poses, the way this is shot and presented, with the music playing in the background, is so hammy. 

The film's main draws whose initials are the same as each others, interestingly in Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone, both of them get to flaunt their assets with Stallone's biceps and Stone's breasts on view. But even that alone couldn't save this fairly poor film, that it's not surprising that The Specialist wasn't well received. Had it not been for her showing some skin, not a care in a world would have been given to this film. James Woods and Eric Roberts are in this one too: Roberts in his almost typecast villain role, & although his character is supposed to be 15 years older than Sharon Stone's May, he's the same age bracket as her, whereas Woods was okay and arguably gives the only noteworthy performance out of the main four.

There are no car chases, proper fights and battles, but what we do have in its place is the romance between Ray and May and there is a steamy-ish love scene when they tear each other's clothes off, which then transpires in the shower. But again with Stallone, though as big an action star he is, he lacks that charisma to be able to carry off as an actor that unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger he doesn't have a command-able screen presence to help draw in the crowds. As the bomb expert, Ray, I was never really convinced by that character, nor did I really care for him. This role was just not the right fit for him: this role required an actor, action movie star who could 'act' and deliver that presence this film needed. And Stallone just wasn't that guy for it.

Also, the tension and suspense are not really genuine; I never felt that with The Specialist. The execution just wasn't good enough and for an action thriller, it fails to live up to that billing as the thrills were underwhelming.

It is so dreary and yet so bland that it has really nothing going for it that sets itself apart from other action thrillers; many of which are vastly superior to this one. Add to that also a really cheesy, cornball feel it gives off, and what you have is a feeling of a film that tries to be cool and being marketed as a serious film, when its attempts are to the point, almost laughable and in vain. 

Final Verdict:

This is the action thriller equivalent to Basic Instinct: some action, some sex and not very convincing performances and forgettable characters. But I guess The Specialist will be worth your while if you are into over-the-top, hammy performances, at times not so good dialogue that is supplemented by a puerile script. And yet there is virtually little style, arguably no substance but plenty of explosions going off. 

Under doing it with the action and overdoing it with the dramatics, it's a silly, trite attempt of a film of this particular cross- genre that not even the pairing of Sly Stallone and Sharon Stone could ever redeem it.

Sylvester Stallone once said that Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot is the worst film he has ever done - he needs to add this one to this list, besides a few other turkeys he has starred in.


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