The Specialist (1994) (part 1 of 4)

SUMMARY: Sylvester Stallone is an explosives expert hired by Sharon Stone to help get revenge on the men who killed her family. Steamy-yet-hilarious pseudo-tension ensues, James Woods overacts to good effect, Rod Steiger overacts to bad effect, Eric Roberts cashes an easy paycheck, and lots of things get blown up real good.

The Specialist is a cheeseball action movie desperately trying to pass itself off as a serious erotic action drama. Released in the fall of 1994, it marked the end of Sly’s brief comeback that began with Cliffhanger in 1993, when audiences soundly rejected the Governator’s Last Action Hero in favor of Die Hard on a mountain, and the much better Demolition Man. Following the pretty good performance of this film, two duds in 1995, and Daylight in 1996, Stallone gave serious acting one last shot with the underrated Cop Land, before going into relative hibernation until 2006.

Well, okay, he did make some movies in the interim, but apart from Driven and his voice work in Antz, none of them really earned him much attention. And in the case of Driven, the attention came mainly from me looking at the trailer online and debating whether or not to waste my money. For the record, my decision was an emphatic “No, I’d rather see The Mummy Returns.”

Besides Stallone, the other big draw in the movie is Sharon Stone. Still a hot property in the wake of Basic Instinct, to say nothing of being just generally hot, she was a pretty big name at the time. So a star vehicle featuring both Stallone and Stone must have been very appealing, in theory.

Add in James Woods as the main villain, plus some hilariously awful supporting turns from Eric Roberts and Rod Steiger as Cuban gangsters (yes, you read that right, and it’s even worse than what you’re imagining), and you have the potential for a wonderfully cheesy good time. The operative word there is “potential”.

For some reason, this film was marketed as a more “serious” movie, even though I’m pretty certain anybody who’s a fan of either Sylvester Stallone or Sharon Stone doesn’t go to the movies for serious dramatics. Stallone’s fans go to see him kill a lot of things and be macho, and Stone’s fans go in the vain hope she’ll do another leg spreading scene like in Basic Instinct. To be fair, she does get naked in this film. On the downside, so does Sly.

Me? I’m just here for the cheese, of which there is a decent amount in this muddled, kind of laborious, yet enjoyable film. I give it 7 out of 10 vaguely motivated female leads. Let’s check it out.

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Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: The Specialist (1994)

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