Most helpful critical review
Hardly Stallone's worst, but it's not worth mentioning.
on March 29, 2004
Arguably Sylvester Stallone's last box office hit (unless you count Cop Land), The Specialist is not the typical Stallone testosterone fest. In fact, it remains a fairly atmospheric thriller revolving around obsession and revenge. But it's not as interesting as it may sound, thanks to the generally lackluster script and mostly unlikeable characters.
Stallone plays Ray Quick, an ex-bomb specialist who works for hire. After the movie's requisite prologue, he's in Miami working for May Munro (Sharon Stone), who wants him to kill three mobsters, especially the head mobster's son, Tomas (Eric Roberts), because they murdered her parents when she was a little girl. Quick contacts her only by phone, they are to never meet, but he's admittedly intrigued by her and vice versa. However, she's actually working for Ned Trent (James Woods), Quick's former colleague who's out for revenge.
Action fans expecting bombastic and over-the-top action sequences should steer clear, this movie will be too sluggish for them. The Specialist has no desire to function as a typical Stallone actioner. There are no large-scale gun battles, fisticuffs, or car chases. In fact, I gather Stallone received the role purely on the basis of his box office clout (and perhaps also his ability to brood and act generally depressed fairly well).
So what is The Specialist, then? Is it a thriller? Yeah, sort of, there are a few suspenseful moments, mostly pertaining to Stallone using his bombs to knock off the mobsters. Surprisingly enough, the twist of having the hero kill the bad guys with explosives (Speed and Blown away came out the same year) works well enough, mostly because the villains' impending doom bears a certain inevitability that plays to the movie's advantage.
But there's little else about the movie worth recommending. The story doesn't make much sense; as soon as it's revealed Roberts' murdered Stone's parents when she was a child, I scratched my head in confusion. He couldn't possibly be more than a year or two older than Stone, meaning he committed the murders when he was about, what, ten or eleven? More likely, it appears the filmmakers are trying to pass off Stone as a twenty-year old bombshell. Sure, Stone looks great (and I do mean great) in this film, but she can't even pass for thirty.
The romance is unsurprisingly perfunctory and generic. As soon as the hero and heroine meet, they almost immediately tear their clothes off and go at it. This is neither romantic nor sexy, even with the undeniably hot Sharon Stone as part of this tryst. I've always kind of liked Stallone, subpar an actor as he may be. He's always had a fairly commandable screen presence, though he has yet to translate that to genuine charisma (which is what puts him considerably behind that other big lug, Arnold Scwarzenegger).
Neither suspenseful nor exciting enough to recommend, The Specialist is of little interest to anyone except for Stallone and Stone fans (and maybe James Wood fans, who will either delight or wince at his maniacally over-the-top performance). I'm still waiting for Stallone to revive his career with a big-budget action blockbuster, but I don't see it happening. Hey, I'm one of the few guys out there who actually liked D-Tox, so I wouldn't necessarily say his career has gone down the drain.
* 1/2 out of *****