Spoilers alert! I recommend watching the movie before reading, or at least have a good memory of it. Be warned though, its a bit rubbish.
Everyone loves a bad movie from time to time. They can be entertaining for that very reason. This blog will cover some seriously bad movies. Or at least those with unfathomable qualities. Welcome to a new feature: The Worst Movie Ever Made.
This first entry, The Specialist, is a perfect specimen for this feature. This is a bad movie. One of Sylvester Stallone’s worst for sure. Seriously, it’s up there with Tango & Cash, minus the homo-erotic overload. Amazingly however it was one of Stallone’s most successful movies in the 90’s, earning $170 million at the box office against a budget of $45 million.
It begins with a cliched betrayal from co-star James Woods, the terribly-named Ned Trent. The films’ title refers to Stallone’s character Ray Quick (seriously, they went with that name?!) and his skills when it comes to explosives. Apart from the title, that fact isn’t made obvious from the opening scene. Nor is it initially implied that either Stallone or Woods are bomb specialists; they’re just on a mission to plant bombs in camouflage gear! I could do that!
Back to the ridiculously-named main characters. Trent & Quick sounds more like a cowboy law firm than a pair of bomb technicians. Apparently they worked for the CIA, but it’s all explained in a loose, unconvincing manner. This is The Specialist’s biggest fundamental issue, given it’s the backstory to get you invested in the lead characters. So yeah, slightly important.
After said intro-mission-scene concludes, Quick seemingly quits the CIA as their mission takes a child’s life. Woods thinks that’s merely collateral damage. Quick then turns into part hit-man, part stalker. His work influx comes from seemingly random internet forums. What look likes the display on a Mini-Disc player. Remember those? I loved my Mini-Disc player, but they were a bugger to record onto. Just another version of tapes essentially. But they sounded fantastic.
Anyway, said forums and wanted advertisement system is where Sharon Stone’s character May Munro slinks into the movie. She is the movie’s only semblance of empathy. She appeals to Stallone’s sense of honour and loneliness, but proceeds to rebuff her requests nonetheless.
“Have you decided to take the job?
I saw your ad today.
– I know it’s late…
– It’s never too late.
After all, you’re giving me a new life.
When you kill those three bastards.
You better get somebody else.
I like your voice.
You don’t need an explosive contractor.
Yes, I do.
– You’re my only hope.
– Go to court, use the law.
The law’s been bought.
Use a bullet.
I heard you control your explosions…
that you shape your charges.
What I shape is my business.
All I’m saying…
…word is you are the best.
If we could just meet…
I don’t meet or work in Miami
and I don’t do jobs like this.
Why do you keep calling me back?
I like your voice.”
It’s a conversation between 2 people that feels like completely different conversations. It also really isn’t clear what Quick’s job actually is at this point. If you’re not a bomber for hire to blow things up then….? There’s no mention of payment either, everything is just assumed. For a 2-hour movie the plot could at least be made more viable.
Another thing, if he doesn’t meet/work in Miami then why is a bomb specialist doing IN MIAMI, unsuccessfully dissuading someone he’ll clearly end up taking on as a client anyway? Sorry, spoiler alert. And a final point here, she’s heard he’s the best? Where? Controlled Bombers-R-Us? Is Miami i saturated market for contract bombers? I’m guessing at this point Quick already knows Trent has put her up to this, hence why he sticks around. Otherwise he’s pretty dumb.
Quick quickly becomes obsessed with May following her plea for help. Presumably because she is using the alias ‘Adrian’ to get close to her parents’ killers, a Miami cartel. Or it could be the several instances of borderline phone sex between the two. Either seem to do the trick for Quick.
Quick performs his recon/stalking whilst listening to the phone recordings, somewhat seductively narrated by Stone’s character. Or, which is far more uncomfortable viewing, whilst performing a sweaty Tai-Chi-style workout. Presumably with a raging boner as he imagines Munro alone and vulnerable, yet semi clad. Of course.
The plot reveals that May/Adrian witnessed the hit on her parents several years ago, by the aforementioned cartel. Patriarch Jon Leon (Rod Steiger) and his well-versed son, Tomas (Eric Roberts), are running the show. May becomes Adrian to infiltrate the cartel as Eric Roberts’ girlfriend (someone has to), but all is not as it seems. Because as a twist of fate that anyone will have seen coming, James Woods works for said cartel. Not only that, he’s blackmailing the vengefully-driven Stone into the cartel, all as an elaborate ploy to draw out Stallone. If only they’d put that much effort into entertaining the audience.
Speaking of which, the only entertainment in The Specialist stems from James Woods. He steals every scene he is in, some of them comically bad but still outclasses everyone around him. The problem with that? Stallone wasn’t happy about being shown up on screen during the production. It is no coincidence they spend very little time on screen together because Stallone had the scenes removed. Furthermore, re-shoots were done to emphasise Stallone even further. Particularly the grit-less scene with Eric Roberts’ character. Why? For fear of being upstaged by Woods of course. Which he was in the final cut anyway. But Stallone being Stallone, this was a platform for him. His influence behind the scenes are well known. Pretty ballsy from Stallone given the role was almost taken away in favour of Warren Beatty in the first place.
As for Sharon Stone, she manages to pull off the role of vengefully-disturbed vulnerable victim pretty convincingly. Just 2 problems; Stone was 36 at the time of filming yet her character is in her early twenties. Eric Roberts was 38, just 2 years older, yet his character killed Stone’s parents when she was a child, 16 years earlier. As for filming the steamy scenes with Stallone, they went far from swimmingly.
“OK. Let it be known, I didn’t want to do this scene because Sharon was not cooperating.
We get to the set and she decides not to take her robe off.
The director asks only a few of the crew to remain, and she still won’t take it off.
I promised her I wouldn’t take any liberties, so what’s the problem?
She said, ‘I’m just sick of nudity.’
I asked her if she could get sick of it on someone else’s film.
She was having none of it, so I went down to my trailer, brought back a bottle of Black Death vodka that was given to me by Michael Douglas and after half-a-dozen shots we were wet and wild.”
Its not clear whether nudity was contractual on Stone’s part, but Stallone seemed prepared to say and do whatever it would take to get her to do the scenes. The Michael Douglas reference was weird too, as if to say vodka from the man who previously performed sex scenes with her would persuade her?!
In truth, the scenes are not necessary in the grand scheme of the movie. But I would argue they gave the movie the media attention/controversy it needed to sell tickets. And was surely one of the main reasons that one of Stallone’s worst movies of the 90’s grossed as well as it did. I still recall to this day mainstream news reports showing clips of the shower scenes. Sometimes, sex really does sell.
The Specialist is not a good film. It’s near 2 hours of total boredom. Given how slow developments occur, it felt a lot longer. An excellent, neurotic but underused James Woods, plus a score from long time James Bond composer John Barry, are the only high points. Like Sharon Stone’s character states in the final line of the movie (“How do you feel?” “Better”), you will also feel better knowing its all over.
Let me know your thoughts on The Specialist below, or on twitter. What other films would you like to see dissected? With a few suggestions a poll on twitter will be used to decide. Look out for more of The Worst Movie Ever Made!