REVIEW: The Specialist

During my teen years, there were a plethora of films that I watched and then forgot all about.  Perhaps the crazy amount of hormones chugging their way through my body affected memory.  Perhaps it was because I watched so many movies during that time that it became difficult to recall certain films.  Perhaps the film was just so bad that there was no point in dedicating a chunk of real-estate in my feeble brain to store the memory.

That third possibility, I believe, is the reason why I had no memory of watching The Specialist decades ago.  The one and only fact I knew for certain was that I had watched it and disliked it.  Now, many years later, seeing it again illustrated the pure level of awful that this film was.

Directed by Luis Llosa (Sniper and Anaconda), The Specialist appears to be a noir inspired sexual thriller. It stars Sylvester Stallone as Ray Quick, a former explosives specialist for the CIA.  After killing a child on a job, Ray left the CIA and caused his his superior Ned Trent (James Woods) to lose his job.  Now working as a hired hit man, Ray is approached by May Munro (Sharon Stone) to murder organized criminals that are responsible for her parent's deaths.

Coming two years after Basic Instinct, as well as co-starring Stone, it is easy to see where it is getting its inspiration from.  Basic Instinct was a massive financial hit, and Llosa really appears to be leaning into it to tell the story in The Specialist.  I've never read a Harlequin novel, but I'm assuming that I just witnessed a film version of it.

The focus in this film is to lead towards an inevitable moment of passion between Munro and Quick.  The sexual buildup includes a phone conversation where they are both showing off their bodies to the camera, a scene that is eyerollingly sad.  Yes, look at those two bodies.  Boy, I'd sure do anything to see those two bodies get together in a shower.

Those weren't my actual thoughts.  Not now, and not even when I was a pubescent and horny teenager.  All of the sexual tension and build up doesn't rise to the level of quality that should be in theatres, feeling more like a late Friday night television show narrated by David Duchovny.

Every single aspect of The Specialist feels like it was made for late night television.  The dialogue, written by Alexandra Seros, is limp (pun intended).  Each exchange between characters is laughable and simplistic.  The performances never rise above the level of the dialogue, with each and every performer seeming as though this was their first attempt at acting.

Also of horrendously poor quality, the villains seem best suited to trying to capture Rocky and Bullwinkle, and not hardened criminals in Miami.  The ever so caucasian Rob Steiger plays a Cuban baddie (although apparently Steiger's father was described as 'Latino-looking').  His attempted accent is appalling, and there is never any actual danger emanate from his character.  As well, Woods' character is over the top in an almost fun way, but ends up being ineffective for what is needed from an antagonist.

When the conclusion of the film came around, I was overjoyed.  It was done.  I was set free to now bath in the glow of literally any other film, as not many get worse than The Specialist.  However, when it comes to my star rating, it is partially saved by the moments where I enjoyed the inept lunacy of the story and its characters.  Giving it a full star doesn't accurately convey the overall quality, but sometimes I just have to reward cinematic madness when it's refuse provides at least minimal entertainment.

Rating - 1 out of 4 stars