The Specialist has fewer explosions than most of this year's other "blowed up real good" movies. This is not a plus, since The Specialist also has less plot and dialogue than any of this year's other "blowed up real good" movies.
The film begins with the specialist of the title, Ray Quick (Sylvester Stallone), in the jungle with Ned Trent (James Woods). They're all decked out in heavy-duty jungle gear and setting a bridge to blow. But oh no! The intended target has a little innocent girl child in the car with him! Ever heroic, Stallone wants to abort the operation. Ever pragmatic, Woods won't. So Stallone tries valiantly to save the little girl child.
Thus ends the partnership between the rigger Stallone and the trigger Woods. This breakup is very sad because Woods goes above and beyond the call of shoddy action-flick duty to deliver a wild-eyed performance that probably has Dennis Hopper weeping with envy.
After Ray's sterling character is established and he's split with his partner and the agency, we fast-forward to his new life. Ray lives in a converted seafood warehouse in Miami; he's freelancing. Here's where The Specialist throws in a few obligatory cyber-scenes of Stallone checking out the "Weekend Warrior" BBS (computerized bulletin board service). This Soldier of Fortune on-line is where Stallone and Sharon Stone hook up.
Stone plays May Munro, a blond with vengeance on her mind. Years ago, May's mom and pop were offed by a gangland family while she, as a tot, hid in the closet and watched. Now she's all grown up and eager to hire a freebooter who can take out the people who destroyed her life.
After Stallone answers her "Weekend Warrior" ads, they get heavy into phone negotiations. He's coy, though, and not only refuses to meet but also tries to talk her out of her vendetta.
"Then I'm going in," she announces. How? By slinking into a Miami underworld party wearing a lovely gauze ensemble. There, her target, Tomas Lopez (Eric Roberts), the man who led the assault on her home, is smitten. So he takes her out for a day of cocktails and kneecapping. She wears another skimpy cheesecloth outfit, he roughs people up. Is she, gasp, falling for his muscular, blue-eyed cuteness? Nope, she's still moping about her long-dead ma and pa and mooning over the oh-so-articulate mercenary she's phone-sexing.
And, hey, wait a ding-dang minute -- she's got something going with Ned, who's scammed his way onto the Miami police force and is working for Papa Lopez (Rod Steiger), who looks exactly like Yoda except for the heart surgery scar. At this point, what passes for the plot might tangle if things moved more quickly. Or even if they moved at a normal pace. The Specialist, however, is a restful action movie.
The Specialist doesn't really deserve its R rating because so much of it -- the non-James Woods-as-rabid-ex-CIA agent sections -- is so dull people are likely to doze off and miss the good parts. Not that the good parts are anything to write home about.
There's foreplay that has Stallone performing martial arts of some sort, oiled-up and alone in his home as he listens to taped phone conversations with his client. (His voice is mysteriously absent from these recordings.) There's also solo foreplay from May, who, alone in her apartment, prowls through darkened rooms in comfy fishnet tights and a butt-thong and finally ends up writhing on her bed. Later, the two go all the way in a shower. TV's Blossom may have a better love life.
Stone's gravity-defying breasts and Stallone's ropy old hunkunculus bod get plenty of good exposure and have been heavily hyped for this flick. This is not right. What about Eric Roberts? Eric Roberts has one of the most lickable stomachs in film today. His tanned, toned bod may be the best thing in The Specialist. That, or Sharon Stone's shoes.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.