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  Specialist, The Explosive Personality
Year: 1994
Director: Luis Llosa
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Rod Steiger, Eric Roberts, Mario Ernesto Sánchez, Sergio Doré Jr, Chase Randolph, Jeana Bell, Allan Graf, Brent Sexton, Yamilet Hidalgo, Steve Raulerson, David Caprita, Bud Ekins, Jon Curry, Carmen More
Genre: Action, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: By a bridge in Columbia in 1984, two C.I.A. special operatives had been sent to assassinate a local troublemaker by blowing him up as he passed over the structure thanks to one of the men, Ray Quick (Sylvester Stallone), being an explosives expert extraordinaire. Once he had set the charges, he returned to his partner Ned Trent (James Woods) to watch their work in action, and Ned activated the timer the second he saw their target's car driving towards the bridge, but then Ray noticed something alarming. There was a child in the car as well, and Ned refused to prevent the bombs going off, leading to tragedy...

All of which was a prologue to the main course, establishing the antagonism between the two men now they had left the Agency and struck out on their own. Well, Ray, the Specialist of the title, is an independent but Ned has joined the Miami police force where he's also in the pocket of the Cuban gangster underworld there, and what do you know, they find themselves on opposite sides of the... er, law? Actually they seem to be on the same side of the law, just in different positions and don't believe normal society's rules apply to the them: the ideal mavericks for an action movie, naturally. What brings them together is a moll of the Cubans, May Munro, played by Sharon Stone.

Which meant the posters could say "Stallone - Stone" at the top and sound dramatic, plus rhyme a bit too. This meeting of minds, or meeting of bodies at any rate - yes, there was a ludicrous sex scene which resembled a softcore Boris Vallejo painting - was intended to be momentous in blockbuster terms yet while the movie made money it didn't get any respect, with patrons actively laughing at stuff that we have to presume wasn't supposed to be funny. What was supposed to be funny, and didn't he know it, were the lines given to Woods who played his sleazebag bent copper to the hilt, in effect running away with the film leaving his co-stars blinking in his dust; for anyone settling down to watch this, they would quickly identify him as the best reason for sticking with it, and wisely they kept him till the finale.

The odd thing about The Specialist, apart from all those other odd things, was it was based on a script which had a sky high reputation as one of the greatest thrillers around, so by the time they got around to shooting it you might have anticipated plenty of that quality up there on the screen instead of the minor action flick with the camp reputation it actually turned out to be. There was certainly some post-production meddling that went on, including creating whole new scenes for Stallone to make him appear more vital to the plot than he might otherwise be: you do tend to notice he is relegated to the sidelines for vast swathes of the movie, and giving him a sequence where he massively overreacted toward a gang of punks on a bus was more risible than respect-commanding.

In the meantime, when Sly wasn't skulking about in public phone booths or appropriating someone's cat (seriously, you expect to see "LOST" posters for the moggy cropping up in the background) you had the dubious pleasure of entertaining three seasoned overactors as they were put through their paces. Woods you knew about, and he was able to rein it in to explode only at certain points, but the crime family May wants Ray to assassinate in revenge for them killing her parents in an apparent time warp (shouldn't she now be a teenager judging by the flashbacks?) are led by patriarch Rod Steiger and his scuzzy son Eric Roberts. Steiger had evidently decided an accent was what he needed so gave it the full Speedy Gonzales, while Roberts oozed scummy charm, which was every bit as unpleasant as that sounded. Sadly, when you weren't laughing you were pondering if this was going to pick up the pace, as it didn't half drag from one controlled explosion to the next. Lush music by John Barry.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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