The Specialist

The Specialist is a 1994 American action thriller film directed by Luis Llosa and starring Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Eric Roberts and Rod Steiger.[2] It is loosely based on "The Specialist" series of novels by John Shirley. The film met with negative critical response, but became a box office success, and Gloria Estefan's version of "Turn the Beat Around" became a dance sensation.

The Specialist
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLuis Llosa
Written byAlexandra Seros
Based onThe Specialist
by John Shirley
Produced byJerry Weintraub
CinematographyJeffrey L. Kimball
Edited byJack Hofstra
Music byJohn Barry
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 7, 1994 (1994-10-07) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$45 million[1]
Box office$170.4 million[1]


In 1984, Captain Ray Quick (Stallone) and Colonel Ned Trent (Woods), explosives experts working for the CIA, are on a mission to blow up a car transporting a South American drug dealer. But when the car appears, a little girl is inside with the dealer. Ray insists they abort the mission, but Ned intends to see it through and allows the explosion to happen, resulting in the deaths of both the drug dealer and the child. Furious by the girl's wrongful death, Ray savagely beats Ned and flees, effectively resigning from the CIA.

Years later, in Miami, Ray works as a freelance hit man. He lives a solitary existence with his cat, named "Timer". Desperate people contact him via an Internet bulletin board and he takes the cases that interest him. Ray specializes in "shaping" his explosions, building and planting bombs that blow up only the intended target while leaving innocent bystanders unharmed.

He answers ads placed by a woman named May Munro (Stone) and speaks to her often to decide if he should take the job or not. During the talks, he becomes intrigued by her story, coupled with the fact that he sees how attractive she is while following her. She is the only child of parents who were killed by Tomas Leon (Roberts) and his men. Against his better judgment, and pushed by her insistence that she will infiltrate the gang with or without him, Ray is persuaded to accept the job. Even though he has agreed, May ingratiates herself into Tomas' world as Adrian Hastings.

Ned now works for Joe Leon (Steiger), Tomas' father and director of their organized crime syndicate. Once the hits on their lower level guys begin, they contact the chief of police to place Ned in their bomb squad. May tolerates Tomas and plays along as his girlfriend so she can watch the hits one by one. It is revealed after the second target is killed that May has actually been forced into a partnership with Ned, whose goal was to coax Ray out of hiding. After the job in South America went wrong, Ned was dismissed from the CIA and is intent on revenge.

When the trap for Tomas is set, May is in the room; the resulting explosion appears to kill them both. When Ned goes to Joe to pay his respects, he is left alive only so he can find Ray and bring him to Joe before Tomas is buried. Both Ray and Ned believe that May is dead, yet Ray discovers that bulletin board messages are still being posted. He responds to one, quickly realizing that it is a trap set by Ned and the bomb squad, and baits Ned into an explosive tirade.

When he goes to the funeral of Adrian Hastings, Ray finds that May is alive. She went to the funeral to see if Ray would attend. Then they go to the Fontainebleau Hotel. They undress and make love in bed and in the shower. After this, she leaves. Meanwhile, Ned has gone to the cathedral and learns that the person in the casket is not May. She runs into Ned in the hotel lobby and makes an excuse as to why she did not tell him that she was alive. A henchman is ordered to take her to the car, and on the way, she asks to use the restroom. Once there, she uses a cell phone to warn Ray. He rigs the hotel room to explode, and when Ned's henchmen enter the room, it detonates, breaking the entire room off into the ocean.

May is taken to Joe Leon but Ned insists on keeping her alive to lure Ray out. Ned listens in as Ray calls May, he refuses to meet with her and be "set up" again, but she convinces him that she truly does care about him. He arranges a meeting at a seafood restaurant and May uses secret coding to tell him it's a trap before hanging up. When Ned sends May inside, the restaurant explodes. Ray and May escape on a speed boat to his warehouse. Ned listens to the recording of Ray's call and tracks down his location. The next morning, May is preparing to leave to kill Joe Leon herself, but Ray tells her to let go of the past. Ned arrives with an army of police that surround the booby-trapped warehouse. In a final showdown, Ray and May are cornered. Ned pursues them, but is done in by his own hubris when he steps on a bomb. After the entire warehouse goes up due to the chain of bombs exploding, it appears that all inside have been killed, but Ray and May escape unseen through a tunnel.

The next day, Joe reads about the incident at the warehouse. He thanks God for bringing his revenge on Ray and May. He then opens the mail brought to him and finds a necklace. It contains a picture of May's parents, seeing that it's rigged with a bomb, he curses God just before the necklace explodes. After hearing the blast and knowing all responsible for her parents' death are dead, Ray asks how she feels, to which she responds, "Better". They drive off to start their life together.


  • Sylvester Stallone as Captain Ray Quick
  • Sharon Stone as May Munro / Adrian Hastings
  • James Woods as Colonel Ned Trent
  • Eric Roberts as Tomas Leon
  • Rod Steiger as Joe Leon
  • Mario Ernesto Sánchez as Charlie
  • Sergio Doré Jr. as Bill, The Strong Arm
  • Chase Randolph as Stan Munro
  • Jeana Bell as Alice Munro
  • Brittany Paige Bouck as Young May Munro
  • Emilio Estefan, Jr. as Piano Player
  • LaGaylia Frazier as Singer
  • Ramón González Cuevas as Priest At Cemetery
  • Tony Munafo as Tony
  • Cheito Quinonez as Singer At Party
  • Tony Tatis as Backup Singer
  • Mercedes Enriquez as Pregnant Woman On Bus
  • Yennifer Behrens as Schoolgirl On Bus
  • Allan Graff as Bus Driver
  • Juan F. Cejas as Latin Thug
  • Marcela Cardona as Tina
  • Brent Sexton as Manny
  • Yailet Hidalgo as Hooker
  • Steve Raulerson as Chief Danny
  • Mario Roberts as Kitchen Thug #1
  • Jeff Moldovan as Kitchen Thug #2
  • Gene Hartline as Kitchen Thug #3
  • Antoni Corone as Marksman
  • Scott Blake as Punk #1
  • Rex Reddick as Punk #2
  • Jeff Bornstein as Punk #3
  • Scott Waugh as Punk #4 (uncredited)
  • Carl Ciarfalio as Ned's Thug In Hotel Room #1 (uncredited)
  • Robert Apisa as Ned's Thug In Hotel Room #2 (uncredited)
  • Elvis The Cat as Timer The Cat


Box officeEdit

The Specialist opened in the U.S. on October 7 and grossed $14,317,765 in its opening weekend finishing number one at the US box office. In its second weekend, it grossed $8,972,766, finishing second to the claimed $9.3 million gross of Pulp Fiction, however, others disputed Miramax Films' claimed gross and felt that The Specialist was the highest-grossing for the weekend.[3] The film ended up making back its budget with $57,362,582 at the domestic box office while making another $113,000,000 internationally, giving it a worldwide gross of $170,362,582. It set a Warner Bros. record opening in the Philippines with $1.1 million and had the fifth biggest opening of all time in Spain with a gross of $2.1 million.[4] It was Stallone's third highest-grossing movie at the box office in the 1990s and the second highest overall gross next to Cliffhanger.[5]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 7% based on reviews from 29 critics.[7]

Roger Ebert gave it two stars out of four, stating that "The Specialist is one of those films that forces the characters through torturous mazes of dialogue and action, to explain a plot that is so unlikely it's not worth the effort. You know a movie's in trouble when the people in line at the parking garage afterward are trying to figure out what the heroine's motivations were."[8] James Berardinelli rated it one and a half out of four stars, writing "This movie is excruciatingly dumb. And, given the releases of Speed and Blown Away this summer, there's no dearth of explosion-based motion pictures. The only twist this one offers is that here, the bomber is the good guy (...)."[9]

The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of "The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made".[10]


At the 15th Golden Raspberry Awards, the film was nominated in five categories and won two of them.

At the 17th Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, the film was nominated in four categories and won one of them.[11]

  • Worst Picture - Nominated
  • Worst Actor (Sylvester Stallone) - Nominated
  • Worst Actor (Rod Steiger) - Nominated
  • Worst Actress (Sharon Stone, also for Intersection) - Winner

Year-end listsEdit


  1. ^ a b "The Specialist". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2020-10-10.
  2. ^ Clary, Mike (1994-06-18). "Call in the Specialist Series: On the Job. Spotlighting the Workaday World. One in a Series". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-25.
  3. ^ Klady, Leonard (October 18, 1994). "'Pulp' claims B.O. title; competitors call it fiction". Daily Variety. p. 1.
  4. ^ Groves, Don (November 14, 1994). "'Lion King' conquers French B.O.". Variety. p. 14.
  5. ^ Fox, David J. (1994-10-11). "Weekend Box Office Stallone and Stone Draw In the Fans". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-25.
  6. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  7. ^ "The Specialist". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  8. ^ Roger Ebert (1994). "The Specialist". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2020-11-01.
  9. ^ James Berardinelli (1994). "The Specialist". ReelViews. Retrieved 2017-10-11.
  10. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.
  11. ^ "1994 17th Hastings Bad Cinema Society Stinkers Awards". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 17, 2006. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  12. ^ P. Means, Sean (January 1, 1995). "'Pulp and Circumstance' After the Rise of Quentin Tarantino, Hollywood Would Never Be the Same". The Salt Lake Tribune (Final ed.). p. E1.
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 27, 1994). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; The Good, Bad and In-Between In a Year of Surprises on Film". The New York Times. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  14. ^ Hunter, Stephen (December 25, 1994). "Films worthy of the title 'best' in short supply MOVIES". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  15. ^ Webster, Dan (January 1, 1995). "In Year of Disappointments, Some Movies Still Delivered". The Spokesman-Review (Spokane ed.). p. 2.
  16. ^ Elliott, David (December 25, 1994). "On the big screen, color it a satisfying time". The San Diego Union-Tribune (1, 2 ed.). p. E=8.
  17. ^ Arnold, William (December 30, 1994). "'94 Movies: Best and Worst". Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Final ed.). p. 20.
  18. ^ Craft, Dan (December 30, 1994). "Success, Failure and a Lot of In-between; Movies '94". The Pantagraph. p. B1.

External linksEdit