"I take orders from the Octoboss."

The Specialist

THE SPECIALIST was Sylvester Stallone’s 1994 offering, a present-day palate cleanser between the futuristic DEMOLITION MAN and JUDGE DREDD. It even says “present day” onscreen after a prologue taking place in Colombia in ’84.

That was when black ops explosives expert Ray Quick (Stallone) had a falling out with his partner-mentor Ned Trent (James Woods). They were trying to assassinate a drug lord but Quick tried to pull the plug when he saw that a little girl was going to get blown up with him. Trent of course doesn’t care, and he gets his way (drug lord and girl both blown to kingdom come) but then the two of them fight about it.

When we pick up ten years later in Miami Beach it seems like neither of them are working for the government anymore. Quick lives in a heavily secured secret loft, and he’s following around some lady (Sharon Stone) who seems to be the kept woman of Tomas (Eric Roberts) who’s the son of a South American drug lord (Rod Steiger) who’s working with Trent. Quick is a quiet loner who’s often wearing headphones, listening to recordings of phone calls he had with Sharon Stone (?). It seems she’s trying to get revenge on Tomas, who tortured and killed her parents when she was a little girl. Not sure how that timeline works out since Roberts is only 2 years older than Stone in real life.

Stallone is good at these quiet, sad-eyed characters, but this one could use some more personality. He’s pretty generic. He does have a badass juxtaposition: a cat snuggles up to him while he’s trailing the girl and he decides to take it home as a pet. (Sorry, original owner.) Later there’s a funny part where I’ve completely forgotten about the cat but it runs into a bunker at the last second so we know it didn’t get blown up.

I’m all for a quiet, moody suspense thriller, but this is not well paced or directed enough to be very captivating. The first half especially is pretty slow and the second half doesn’t really pay off the earlier ambiguity about what was going on. Stone is returning to the world of action movies (remember she was in ABOVE THE LAW and ACTION JACKSON) after becoming so famous for BASIC INSTINCT. Her character is a weird mix of all her types: damsel in distress, femme fatale, softcore hottie. They have a sex scene in bed and then in the shower and then a conversation in the shower. It’s a giant shower so it’s a pretty impressive hotel room. Stone shows a little bit of boob, Stallone shows alot of ass. But otherwise this is not very Shannon Tweedian.

The best parts are the spy movie type assassination schemes with hidden bomb gimmicks such as the explosive teacup with tennis racket remote. That’s how a bomber hides out at a resort – with a polo shirt and tennis racket. This is also before CGI took over everything, so there’s alot of pyrotechnic work. Definitely the most impressive one is the car bombing of the poor-tipper mob accountant that results in basically a flaming ejector seat. There’s also a cleverly staged scene where a fancy overhanging hotel penthouse is severed from the rest of the building, though it’s made laughable by some terrible effects shots that seem like they’d come from a movie made ten or fifteen years earlier.

There are little details in some of the explosions that are nice. An explosion at a seafood restaurant dumps a bunch of live crabs on the hood of Trent’s car.

Because he’s “the specialist” and not a brawler it’s not as much of a straight action movie as many Stallone vehicles, but of course he’s pumped up so he goes around shirtless alot and practices tai chi or yoga or some shit. There’s a pretty good kitchen fight where he deep fries a guy. And at one point it seems like they were worried people like me would be itching for some fighting, so he beats up 3 goons on a crowded city bus for harassing a woman. He even punches one through the side window. It doesn’t show if he got kicked off the bus after that or what. He needs the public transportation system bad so it’s a good thing he doesn’t seem to get banned for that.

The other major entertainment factor is Woods doing his asshole shtick. Somehow he works for the drug lord and with the bomb squad, so he has both a South American hit squad and legitimate police forces at his disposal. But because it’s a movie they pretend that it takes a long time to trace a phone call and he’s stuck sitting around trying to keep Quick on the line longer.

This Trent character is always flippin out, even pointing a gun at a priest during a funeral and yelling “I said open the fucking casket!” Which is considered rude in most cultures. Definitely his best scene is in the bomb squad headquarters, he’s pissed that nobody takes him seriously so while he’s yelling at them he starts grabbing bomb parts that must be evidence or something, pretending to be asking questions about them as he builds a bomb and threatens to blow up the whole building.

Quick hates Trent back but doesn’t really know how to be as much of a dick, so even in a tirade the worst insult he comes up with is “you stinkin maggot!” If this was the TV version I’d assume that was a looped line.

To be honest Ray Quick seems kinda slow. In my opinion if a woman ditches you in a hotel room and leaves a note that says “I’M NOT A WOMAN YOU CAN TRUST” – believe that note. The guy is thinking with his dick. But I guess it works out.

Steiger isn’t in it that much, but he’s pretty funny doing a SCARFACE accent. His last line (SPOILER) is “Ju bastarda!” Also there’s a part where he sort of marks Sharon Stone by licking his finger and then running it along her face. Gross.

THE SPECIALIST is directed by Luis Llosa (SNIPER, ANACONDA), written by Alexandra Seros (POINT OF NO RETURN – the LA FEMME NIKITA one with Bridget Fonda), “suggested by” a series of novels by John Shirley (THE CROW).

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 12th, 2012 at 1:41 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

96 Responses to “The Specialist”

  1. James Woods’ mega performance is to me what makes the movie. From his sleazy facial mannerisms in the beginning when Stallone wants to remove the bombs from the bridge to the greatest scene in the movie when he flips on Stallone over the payphone with a barrage of overtly emotional “fuck you”s. It’s a career best showing for him IMO.

  2. Oh and the interesting thing about this movie to me was always how it was like the hottest script for a thriller in Hollywood at the time. Went for a lot of money apparently. There was talk back then about it being more action packed than DIE HARD which is why I saw this on opening weekend as a youngin but the supposed greatness of the script never really showed on screen. I remember they offered it to Seagal to star in before ON DEADLY GROUND but he was asking for too much money ($9 million vs the $3 million offered) and then they wanted Snipes at one point. This one has a pretty interesting behind the scenes story.

  3. This one takes itself a little too seriously to be all that much fun, and the ridiculously gratuitous nude scene with the two vainest exhibitionists working in Hollywood at the time was sleazy in a way that I can’t really get behind, but all the heavy-duty mega-acting at work from Steiger, Roberts, and especially Woods kinda makes up for it. However, Broddie, if you think this is Woods’ best work you need to see COP right away.

  4. No not his best Majestyk but it’s up there with the best of them (CASINO, SALVADOR and the aforementioned COP) and the only real highlight of the whole thing. He’s the only one that seems to be really having fun hamming it up.

  5. When I think of it this was that point in time where some 80’s action guys were really into selling themselves as sex symbols to take advantage of that whole 9 1/2 WEEKS and BASIC INSTINCT audience and started having movie sex all over the place in the likes of COLOR OF NIGHT, NOWHERE TO RUN and this one here. Arnold was the only one besides Seagal that stuck it through this period with just straight up action movies like TRUE LIES and ON DEADLY GROUND.

  6. I remember being distinctly underwhelmed by both this, and Assassins. Those two characterize what I consider Stallone’s mediocre phase. James Woods was pretty awesome. That bomb scene was just brilliant.

    I remember an interview where he commented on the experience of being amongst three of the most narcissistic actors in Hollywood. I don’t think they let him do any more press after that.

  7. It has been a while since I have seen this one, but I remember it being pretty boring and disappointing except for Woods. JOHN CARPENTER’S: VAMPIRES is another of my favorite James Woods “dickish” performances.

    Steiger, used a similar Spanish accent in Leone’s DUCK, YOU SUCKER, so maybe Pachino is actually copying Steiger in SCARFACE.

  8. I love this generic Stallone vehicle and my favorite parts are the ones added in reshoots. The bus fight and the kitchen fight are there for no reason except to have action, or as I say, because it’s awesome.

    I guess the kitchen fight is part of his escape, but the bus scene is just there. It’s actually kind of Seagalogical, like the convenience store robbery or beating up the dog abuser.

    No one remembered Woods’ best line? “Get a new shirt.”

  9. doesn’t Willis briefly show his Willis in Color of Night?

  10. Yes, Willis goes full frontal in CoN.

  11. caruso_stalker217

    August 12th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Oh, Jesus. COP. Vern has to review that one. Best scene, hands down, is when Woods tries to look interested when his date tells him about that time she got raped in high school. Such a terrific prick role.

  12. Darth, I agree that ASSASSINS was equally disappointing. They shot a lot of ASSASSINS in Seattle including a soundstage they built on lake Washington at an old military base (right by Magnuson Park where Pearl Jam recorded their live “Drop In The Park” album) a few blocks from my house, so I was really hoping it would be good since it felt like it was made in my neighborhood.

  13. Yeah, that scene in COP was the highlight. So many layers of unspoken intent going on in his facial expressions. If he was just pretending to be Mr. Sensitive to get information from her, that would be one thing, but the fact that he’s also legitimately trying to get laid even though you know he feels nothing but contempt for this woman is exactly what makes Detective John Cop the proto-Bad Lieutenant.

  14. If anyone has been holding off on seeing that Straw Dogs remake, I suggest you see it based solely on the strength of James Woods’ sleazy performance, which may be his all-time best “asshole” role of his career. And that’s saying something.

  15. Jack, I heard the SD remake was awful, but if Woods is good in it that would be enough for me to check it out.

  16. Hey boys n girls – I won a ticket to the early Expendables 2 screening in Austin over on AICN. If any of you guys are going, I’d be up for a beer, and discussion of Vernology after.

  17. Congrats Darth, I entered but I haven’t received and email so I am assuming I didn’t get in. However, I will be going to this on Wednesday.


  18. This movie was released in the U.S. in October 1994, the same day that a low-budget film that had won the Cannes Film Festival that year. Sly’s film won second place, and his career began a decline from which he never recovered. Tarantino’s case, however …

  19. BTW – Curbside – nice work on the redesign.

  20. This and Assassins were Stallone’s attempt to transition from buff 80’s action hero to the more cerebral buff action hero of the 90’s. If you notice, he tries to be introspective and touchy feely. While I think his performances in these were good, most people weren’t buying it.

  21. Charles – 438 consecutive minutes of Van Dammage? No man was meant to absorb such continuous awesome.

    Mr Crown (442) – His performances were decent. It’s the movies that sucked. Even youngish Julianne Moore in hotpants couldn’t save Assassins. It didn’t help that Banderas sounded like a drunken coyote with his Ai-yi-yi-yi’s.

  22. Darth, it might be to much for the average man, but I have been training for this moment for all my life.

  23. I love watching Stallone’s evolution. He was right there with the American consciousness in the ’80s and he won Vietnam and The Cold War. I’m sure a back to basics ROCKY V seemed like a good idea at the time. He knew his time was up so he spent the ’90s trying to adapt.

    Branching out into comedy didn’t work for Sly like it did for Arnold. He came back with big action and sci-fi, then logged in a few generic standards. He was a bit too early on the comic book thing.

    Indie drama was actually a big win artistically. Arnold couldnt have pulled off COPLAND. Sly had the ability to be heroic or still play the Everyman. But there wasn’t any money in respectable indies so he tried to reinvent himself in the cgi era.

    ROCKY ON THE RACETRACK didn’t work, HARDCORE SERIAL KILLER didn’t even come out in the states. So he said, “I know what they want. I’ll bring Rocky and Rambo back.” That gave him cred again so he had a brilliant franchise idea. Let’s get everybody who used to be somebody and all the guys who are big now, just something for everyone.

    And EXPENDABLES was even bigger than his own franchise sequels. He didn’t get everyone but he got it started. Now he really got everyone and even threw in a Hunger Games kid. So smart.

  24. So strange. I remember watching Assassins on video way back when and loving it. Hell, I watched it half a dozen times and to this day still have the impression that it’s a good time at the movies. It’s only when I started talking about movies on The Interweb a few years ago that I realised nobody likes it. Maybe I should rewatch it and try to see what everyone else sees, but I have a funny feeling I’ll still think it’s an entertaining piece of badass cinema.

    As for The Expendables 2, you know what? I’m now OFFICIALLY looking forward to it. There’s just no way it can disappoint as much as the first one. Even after the initial letdown, I still find myself enjoying The Expendables more and more every time I watch it. And let’s face it, the second one looks like it has a lot more going for it. Van Damme as the baddie means my ass in that theater seat on opening day.

    As for the Simon West factor, I for one just happen to love Con Air. It has a redneck Cage kicking ass in a mullet, goddamnit! Best thing since JCVD punched that rattlesnake.

  25. Gotta agree with you there, Fred. Stallone’s had the biggest comeback of the past decade. More importantly, he worked his nuts off and deserved it.

  26. I mean he deserved his comeback. Not to have his nuts worked off.

  27. Knox – You are not alone. I´m also a big fan of ASSASSINS. I never bothered with why people hate it. Maybe someone here can shed some light on that

  28. Also, I´m looking forward to Ex2, but have a feeling there will be nothing in there that will match the badass awesomness of Dirty Laundry. i don´t think anything this year will.

  29. The only way I’m going to be able to maintain my tentative excitement for EXP2 is if I don’t think about it at all. Because the second I do, Sly’s general wishy-washiness over what should have been a bold statement of purpose starts seeming a lot like desperation. He always used to have his finger on the pulse of the audience but now he’s chasing it to the point of crowd-sourcing. “It’s all about honor and manliness and the warrior code and finding something to die for, except actually nobody dies and it’s all campy and we crack jokes all the time! And we got 50 Cent! He’s hip! Wait, you hate 50 Cent? Fuck 50 Cent! It’s a throwback to the 80s! But with hip new shakycam! Wait, you hate shakycam? I got a guy from the 90s! Fuck shakycam! It’s a PG-13 experience for the whole family! Wait, you guys hate PG-13? Fuck PG-13! It’s a hard-R ass-bashing action feast! With Chuck Norris! He’s on the Internet! You guys still like the Internet, right?”

    The man will always be an important part of my cinematic upbringing, and I’m happy that he’s back in the conversation. But the days when I’ll defend his integrity are over. Whatever he had left in the basement has now been hauled out onto the lawn and is being sold to exactly whoever the hell wants it for whatever they’ll pay.

  30. I love Assassins too – I figured when Vern finally reviewed it, it would blow him away, but he only seemed to mildly enjoy it. It’s probably one of my favorite action movies of the 90s.

    I actually think both Assassins and The Specialist have some heavy influences from The Fugitive – in fact, Woods almost seems to be a bizarro villain version of Tommy Lee Jones – acting like an asshole, listening to audio-tapes for clues, barking out orders to poor minions, showing up the local authorities. It’s a fascinating villain performance, made moreso by the fact that he seems to get almost as much screentime as Stallone, and probably twice as much dialogue. And yes, Fred – “Nice shirt” never fails to make me laugh.

    Plus the scene where Woods and Stallone are essentially cutting wrestling promos on each other over the phone is priceless. “I’m right behind you – I’m going to tear out your heart, and close it in my fist…..” The way Woods rips out the reel-to-reel tape and starts kicking it around the floor, pointing to it and yelling “i’ll vaporize your ass!”, man I love this movie.

    SPOILER – my only problem w/ Woods is his last scene. The way he’s defeated makes almost no sense and is pretty random, not to mention really out of character. I think I read in Entertainment Weekly when this movie came out that they did a ton of reshoots because the audience liked Woods better than Stallone, I’m wondering if the climax was heavily changed because of that.

  31. It’s really sad he never capitalized properly after COPLAND. Few would disagree it was Sly’s best “acting acting” since the first two ROCKY’s.

  32. It has been a little while since I have seen ASSASSINS so it hard to point to anything in particular about why I didn’t like it. It just didn’t work for me. I think part of the issue is what Mr. M is talking about in his last post. At the time ASSASSINS came out Sly was really desperate to maintain his relevance in action cinema, and struggled to grasp what action cinema audiences wanted in the 90’s. He dabbled in more cerebral action roles but could never find his footing. I love CLIFFHANGER and DEMOLITION MAN is fun, but after that the 90’s saw Sly’s career in a massive downward spiral until COPLAND. Even then COPLAND was a reach for Sly, he was so desperate to regain relevance at that point he took an unglamorous supporting role in an ensemble drama because of it. I am not sure Sly would have ever consider taking that part in COP LAND if JUDGE DREAD, THE SPECIALIST, ASSASSINS, and DAYLIGHT were bigger hits. I think that by the time Sly made ROCKY BALBOA and RAMBO he had given up trying to figure out what modern action audiences wanted, and decided to go back to basic and play to his strengths then audiences embraced him again.

  33. The Specialist is a snoozefest.

    And on that note, my thread derailment begins… check out https://outlawvern.com/reviews-timeline/ while nowhere near complete, it’s a new way to discover Vern’s reviews. Gotta lot of JSONing ahead of me…

  34. Neal, it’s “Get a new shirt.” That’s what makes it so much more brilliantly assholeish that just “nice shirt.”

    I like ASSASSINS. I could never pretend it’s original but a solid action movie. It was in Joel Silver’s post ’80s/pre-MATRIX period, and Richard Donner didn’t even want to do it but he still made it classier than the usual.

    It has some great moments. Stallone beaten to the snipe, the cab scene, Banderas waiting for Stallone to come out of the bank, moment of badass civility in the bank. It cops out forcing a climax when there could’ve been an interesting ending. Donner later said he should’ve switched the casting. Stallone as the bad guy would’ve been great.

    Yeah too bad he never followed up COPLAND. He did do a cool supporting role in a little seen movie called SHADE. Check it out.

  35. http://www.aintitcool.com/node/57595

    And so begin the EXP3 casting stories.

    ASSASSINS is OK, but it’s too darn slow and as Fred T says, it really does mess up the finale. Also, over-the-top Banderas soon wears out it’s welcome in my house.

    THE SPECIALIST is better in my book, mostly due to the triumverate of terror that is Jimmy Woods, Eric Roberts and the scenery-chewing king himself, Rod Steiger.

    But in both Sly looks like he just ain’t enjoying himself and that’s a shame. Maybe he was pissed off at having to have yet another comeback.

  36. karlos, I am so down with all those choices. I bet they get Snipes and Cage, but even if they just get 1 of the 4 names mentioned I will be happy. Actually, 3 of the 4 (I never thought of Ford because I can’t see him ever doing it) were in my response to Vern’s question about EX3 casting in the new questions section. However, the more I think about it they need to get James Woods for EX3, but I bet he would steal the show like he does in THE SPECIALIST.

  37. There’s no way Cage could be an Expendable, but he’d make a great meta villain. After all, so-called serious actors like him allowing themselves to slum it in action roles is what killed the era of classic action star in the first place. There was no longer any need to hire an Austrian bodybuilder or marble-mouthed roid monkey when you could just hire any old actor whose name looks good on a poster and let the stunt team do the heavy lifting.

    (I hate to bring this up, but Bruce in DIE HARD was pretty much the godfather of this phenomenon. I’m not gonna hold it against him, though. It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

  38. For what it’s worth, it also had it’s positives, such as casting Robert Downey, Jr. and Christian Bale as the leads in comic book movies (and surrounding them with good supporting casts).

  39. I don’t see how Harrison Ford fits in with the Expendables crowd. There’s nothing “B-movie” about him.

    Same can be said for Eastwood. His career may have started out that way, but he’s way too classy in his old age to do something like that.

  40. Was Bruce really a “serious actor” when he made Die Hard. I thought he was just that funny guy from TV.

  41. Yeah, you take the good with the bad.

    I am not willing to concede that Christian Bale in action hero mode is ever a good, though.

  42. By “serious” I meant “paid to act, not to flex.”

  43. Bruce was definitely not a serious actor at the time. All he had done at that point was Moonlighting and Blind Date. He was headed for romantic comedy purgatory until Die Hard.

    As far as Assassins, I’ll take over the top Assassins Antonio Banderas over anything he’s done since. The movie is a pretty cool mess overall but Banderas was great in it. I agree that Stallone looks bored out of his mind in this and The Specialist but I think that just him portraying a solemn loner. I don’t think he’s actually bored.

  44. Guys, stop obsessing over the word “serious.” I know he wasn’t on his way to winning any Oscars before DIE HARD, but that’s not my point. He was still a guy who people associated with acting, whether it be in comedies or dramas or what-have-you, and not with knowing kung-fu or being able to bench press a tree, which is what most action stars were known for. They hired an actor to do action, not an action guy to act, and that started a trend that eventually put guys like Sly and Arnold out of business.

  45. Sly kinda started out the same way, though. He was nominated for Best Actor for Rocky (a very physical role, I’ll admit) and for a while he was considered to be the new Brando or something.

    Then came the 80’s.

  46. True, but he still got famous for a role where he had to take off his shirt and fight, and he never really got out of that box. It didn’t take long for his body to completely eclipse his brain in the public eye, until most people became convinced that the only thing he could do was show off his pecs.

  47. I don’t think Harrison Ford would do it, I don’t think Clint would do it, and probly shouldn’t. I mean, unless it’s something he’s into. He should be spending this time doing whatever the hell he wants, not doing favors for people.

    I hope Cage is the main villain. To use him in a normal-person role would be a waste of his talents and time. He could elevate the series if he goes full Castor Troy.

    I don’t think Snipes gets out for 2 more years, so they’ll have to save him for part 4. But I read that Spike Lee visited him, said he’s in good spirits and in “Blade shape.”

  48. http://www.ksl.com/?nid=157&sid=21685962&title=onion-field-killer-dies-in-california-prison

    Speaking of James Woods, this is the guy he portrayed in his breakout role. THE ONION FIELD isn’t really that great a movie (I’d even find it a bit hard to call it good), but he was absolutely creepy in it, setting the pattern that’s followed his career to this day.

  49. Vern, you are probably right that Clint will never do it, but I could see him making a 5 minute cameo for the fun of it. I imagine being in an EXPENDABLES film is kind of like being on the dream team men’s Olympic basketball squad, part of the fun of being on the team is getting to hang out with other stars that you might not get to spend time with. I bet Clint wouldn’t mind spending a day hanging with other action film icons and sharing war stories between takes.

  50. Clint does apparently show up for a couple of episodes in his wife and daughters’ reality show “Mrs. Eastwood & Company” on E… so we can’t rule out what he would or would not do.

    As for Banderas, he has been in a lot of absolute dreck this past several years. (Also known as the Shrek ghetto.) However, he was also in Haywire and The Skin I Live In so his career isn’t entirely ready to move into the direct to DVD territory, even though The Big Bang should have put him in there quite firmly.

    Speaking of The Big Bang, if you want to see a ridiculously large number of fine and recognizable actors show up in glorified cameos in a terrible, meandering, cheap-looking, navel-gazing, post-modern noir-ish knock-off, this is the film for you. I’m quite amazed this was actually made with the amount of talent it has for something so cheap and bad.

  51. The Skin I Live In.

    Scariest movie I’ve seen all year.

  52. Before I ever saw DIE HARD I only really remembered Bruce from the Seagrams Wine Coolers commercials that used to air in the night time on TV. Not even MOONLIGHTING. Hey I was 5 but it was a revelation that the corn ball from those pseudo jazzy messes of commercial TV could be such an awesome motherfucker.

  53. Knox – Possibly the greatest thing Banderas has ever done.

  54. Also ASSASSINS is ok with me. His character there seemed like a sharper and more fulfilled version of the Ray Quick guy from this one. I’m kinda disappointed that Sly gave up on these more subdued action starring roles tbh. He plays subtle pretty nicely.

  55. Jareth Cutestory

    August 14th, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Broddie: Us older folk remember Willis’ role on MIAMI VICE. That performace made such a big impression on audiences and executives that he was basically fast-tracked into a starring role on MOONLIGHTING.

  56. The only thing I remember about this movie from seeing it in the theater years ago is Rod Steiger looking at the newspaper after the three leads have supposedly been blown up; the sub-headline of the story is something like “RAY QUICK, MAY MUNRO AND NED TRENT ALL KILLED IN EXPLOSION” and I remember thinking ‘why would their names be listed in the headline? It’s not like their characters are supposed to be famous; if anything Sly’s is meant to be totally anonymous.’ Just seemed funny to me to think about picking up a newspaper and seeing that three random people I never heard of were killed. Of course it’s always pretty unbelievable when a news report in a movie gives full names of people who are involved in whatever the character watching TV is just now hearing about, but this felt even more ridiculous – memorably so.

    I also remember James Woods with his gang getting on an elevator, he orders a random person to get off and then, as the doors are closing, he says “Fuck off – and get a haircut” or something like that. That was pretty funny back in ol’ 94. I forgot about the rain of crabs.

  57. DIE HARD was my most hotly anticipated movie of 1988 because I was a big MOONLIGHTING fan back in those first few seasons. I was into all the eighties detective shows: MAGNUM, P.I., MIKE HAMMER, THE EQUALIZER, RIPTIDE, JAKE AND THE FAT MAN, all that shit. If there was a mystery and some wiseass tough guy trying to solve it, I was staying up past my usual bedtime and watching it. MIKE HAMMER was my favorite, because even though I didn’t know anything about Mickey Spillane or the great tradition of hard-boiled fiction, I could sense that it was the most authentic. I even started writing my own Mike Hammer ripoff novel about a dead chick in a dumpster back when I was like nine. All that shit ignited my lifelong love of detective fiction that persists to this day. If you saw me on the subway this morning you’d know it was me because I was the guy rocking the new Masta Ace/Doom album (excellent, by the way) and reading a Rex Stout novel with the red on the edge of the pages. That’s what I’m about.

  58. Jareth Cutestory

    August 14th, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Majestyk: Did DIE HARD live up to your youthful expectations? I hung out with an art snob milieu at the time and was subject to a lot of hand-wringing about DIE HARD representing the irrevocable dumbing down of cinema. My Film Studies professor got a big chuckle by exasperatedly annoucing that the sequel would be called DIE HARDER. I didn’t actually see the film until years later.

    Also, was there a point where you think Willis kind of lost his grasp on the unique charm that he had back in the late 80s? Did you weather Return of Bruno like a storm?

  59. My favorites were MIAMI VICE, CRIME STORY and PRIVATE EYE. Yeah, the 80’s were a great time for television.

  60. Jareth Cutestory

    August 14th, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Forgot to mention: You know what I love about MAGNUM P.I.? No one is ever going to replace Selleck in that role. It’s just inconceivable. Whatever the shortcomings of the show itself, the role seems impossible to replicate.

  61. DIE HARD instantly became my favorite movie, a spot it holds to this day whenever I forget that JAWS exists. For the next two years (at which point I was too growed up to play anymore) I imagined my own DIE HARD movie in my head in which I was the star. I remembered to put shoes on, though. You gotta learn from the master’s mistakes as much as his triumphs.

    I do agree that modern Bruce isn’t as effortlessly wiseass as he was back then, but I was not aware of RETURN OF THE BRUNO at the time. I’m a big fan now, though. I know it’s not good music by any reasonable definition (and so did Bruce), but you can hear all the fun he’s having in his voice and that gets passed on to the listener. The arrangement by Motown house musicians (Bruce was the first man ever signed to that label) are huge and cheesy, full of horns and bongos and big-haired backup singers, but Bruce keeps it so low-key and laidback on the mic that it still sounds down-to-earth and blue-collar, like a regular guy singing with a wedding band. The old soul covers are mostly pretty dire (“Under the Boardwalk,” I’m looking at you), but the originals are great. “Flirting With Disaster” is a slick eighties synth anthem that sounds gloriously out of place against the rest of the LP’s blue-eyed soul backdrop, “Comin’ Right Up” establishes the Bruno character with a poor-man’s Tom Waits feel for the life of nighthawks and barflies, and “Lose Yourself” paints a kinda sleazy but very human picture of a young and barely balding Bruce on the make in L.A. I particularly defy you to listen to “Funtime” and not have exactly that. Its bright horn lines and catchy chorus are the perfect anthem for a much-deserved night out. I would love it if Vern did one of his rare music reviews for this album. He’d probably hate it, but it would still be interesting from a Willisthetical perspective.

  62. V and MIAMI VICE were my vices during my early childhood.Me and a friend used to pretend we were Crockett and Tubbs. Some tension sparked between us because I always insisted being Sonny and he always “had to be” Tubbs. Some of those discussions usually had the “n-word” in it.But,what can I say?I don´t want to make excuses but I was like 6-7 years old at the time and racial diversity and multicultural sensitivities were unusual in Sweden at that time. At least for a 7 year old kid who never seen a black dude before except on televiosion of course.

  63. I remember one time me and my friend Jay were fighting over the same girl when we were like eight. We were trying to decide which of us should back off, and I completely cluelessly said “But you’re black!” thinking that it was just a rule that black boys and white girls didn’t belong together, since I’d never seen such a thing before. Then he punched me and I realized what a dick I was being. Thus ended my youthful experiment with unconscious racism.

    FYI, neither of us ever got the girl, but I did end up briefly dating her (hotter) younger sister in high school.

  64. “But you´re black!” that line reminds me of LETHAL WEAPON 2 again. Damn it! These movies seem to be integrated into my thinking process. I´ve been Lethal Weaponized over the years…or brainwashed if you will.

  65. “But…but…but…you’re BLICK!”

  66. MAGNUM P.I. was the reason I wanted to hit puberty and finally be able to grow a mustache. Unfortunately once that time finally came my mustache was nowhere near as epic as Selleck’s. Speaking of 80’s detective shows, you guys remember HUNTER? watching that show was like the equivalent of going to church in my house at one time. It’s actually one of those 80’s properties that I think could make for a cool modern day movie reboot. I’d like to see Statham in it because he reminds me of a shorter yet more rugged Fred Dryer.

  67. Holy shit a new Don Wilson movie? and with Dudikoff and Rothrock at that? I was just watching RING OF FIRE 2 the other night and wondered why the guy has been on hiatus so long. I really do hope that they do indeed figure out how to get Richard Norton, Olivier Gruner and Lamas in there somewhere.

  68. As soon as the name Don Wilson comes up, usually my attention is lost. I´ve had bad experience with some of the movies he has been in,but in this case I might in fact be more positive even excited. And Michael Jai White is too good anyway to be among that crowd. I want his career to go up,not down. But it sure looks fun and could possibly ( if not more likely) be more entertaining than the hyped EXPENDABLES-franchise.Last question: Why isn´t Thomas Ian Griffith on this cast?

  69. I don´t like that last part about having a comedian on board,however. It disturbs me..

  70. It’s an inspired idea – hope it happens. If they play it right it could be a lot of fun. Love the idea of getting everyone who’s a B-lister in there, even if it’s just to open a door and say one line. Jerry Trimble, you’re up.

    Also, New Dolph. And Van Damme. And Adkins:


  71. Yeah the only type of comedian I could see going for something like this is the Rip Taylor type and that’s not “muy bueno” by any means.

  72. God help us if it is Adam Sandler…

  73. ..but considering the cast and in which period in time they were great its more likely to be another has-been like Pauly Shore.

  74. I vote for Carrot Top. All that time he put in at the gym has got to count for something.

  75. It’ll probably be Kadeem Hardison.

  76. Or Rob Schneider. He’s got some major action sidekick experience.

  77. Yes! Kadeem Hardison I am all for. He was great in DRIVE.

    Majestyk – No offense,but your choices suck. There is only so much I can take from your snarkiness.
    What would you say if any of those choices actually turn out to be true? Not so funny then.

  78. Oh yeah how could I forget that Rob Schneider helped Van Damme against fake jean profiteers; those were good times. Plus he was around Stallone in the future…twice!

  79. Shoot: Call me callous, but I think I’d be able to live with myself if Carrot Top showed up in a Don “The Dragon” Wilson short film.

  80. Who was that guy that played RECKLESS KELLY? he was like a cross between Paul Hogan and Carrot Top. Get that guy.

  81. Stop calling him The Dragon! He is not a dragon.Not even Bruce Lee was a dragon even if he was called “the little dragon”. What,so Don Wilson is bigger than Bruce Lee because he is a bigger dragon?! Fuck that shit,I say!

  82. If his mama named him Don Wilson then I’ll call him Don Wilson. Makes me think though about the first person that actually will name their kid “The Dragon”. It will come soon if it hasn’t come already.

  83. To me, Don “The Dragon” Wilson is his full name. Losing “The Dragon” is like calling Lou Diamond Phillips Lou Phillips. It’s just not the same guy anymore.

  84. Shit.This whole “The Dragon” debacle just makes me angry.Don´t make me angry. You wouldn´t like me when I´m angry.

  85. Majestyk-please point me to the movies he has made to make him earn the nickname “The Dragon”.

  86. Please, we all know the only one deserving of it is Ricky Steamboat :)

  87. He was The Dragon before he ever made movies though. It came from his kickboxing champ days.

  88. According to the September 2004 issue of Inside Kung Fu, he is a Sifu in Pai Lum Tao Kung fu, also known as White Dragon Kung Fu, which is how he obtained his nickname.

    BLOODFIST 2 is also pretty awesome. It begins with an amusingly literal shot of a boxing glove dripping with blood. Take that, THE SQUID AND THE WHALE!

  89. I watched BLOODFIST 2. I was not impressed It was ok. Maybe because I was in such a bad of mood from watching the shitstain that was BLOODFIST 1.At least it was better than THAT! I have the BLOODFIST 1-4 boxset. I think 3-4 must be much much better,because in my mind he just does not deserve that nickname,if Bruce Lee is simply “The little dragon”

  90. Broddie, that would be Yahoo Serious of Young Einstein fame. For some reason, I was thinking of him for the comedic sidekick role as well. Weird. I would nominate Jim Belushi for that role personally though.

  91. The Original... Paul

    August 14th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Damn, Vern, you seem to have a penchant lately for reviewing past action movies I’ve seen and disliked. This one’s no different.

    The second thing that really struck me about it was how serious it was. I don’t think James Woods cracks a smile the entire movie. Made me yearn for Alan Rickman in “Die Hard”. Villains gotta have fun as well!

    The FIRST thing that really struck me, though, was how hilariously bad the scoring is. THAT shower scene… I honestly think, although I’d never ever recommend this awful movie to anybody on the grounds that it might entertain them, that that shower scene should be shown to all students of erotic filmmaking as a hilariously inept example of how NOT to do it. Besides the fact that Stallone and Stone have about as much chemistry as oil and water, even when they’re steaming up in a freakin’ shower, the soundtrack is… I don’t even know how to describe it, and unfortunately I can’t find it on YouTube anywhere. Let’s just say it’s the most mindblowingly, insanely terrible piece of scoring I think I’ve heard, ever. And I’ve heard some terrible, terrible scores. Some of them might equal this. I don’t think any of them could be worse. It’s so bad, it’s almost cathartic. It takes you way past insanity and through to some kind of blissful inner peace. You laugh hysterically while the madness is purged from your body, leaving just… emptiness. An emptiness that is not in any way filled by the dulcet tones of the Late Eighties Saxophones From Hell.

    At least, that was my experience with this scene.

    The only way I can describe the effect that scene has is something like this… imagine you’re making out with the most beautiful girl you’ve ever met. You’re aroused, you’re naked, you’re horny as hell. You’re lying on a bed and she’s stimulating you with her mouth, on your thighs and your chest and on everything in between. And then, just when you’re ready to take her in every way it’s possible for a man to take a woman… she squats down over you and pulls a Cleveland Steamer. That, my friends, is the difference between anticipation and reality. And that’s the same difference as you get when you see this infamous scene.

    Anyway… the sheer wretched compulsiveness of the shower scene isn’t enough to make up for the sheer coma-inducing boredom of the rest of the film. My recommendation is to avoid it like leprosy. Cheers!

  92. The Original... Paul

    August 14th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    One more thing… and ok, anything else I say is gonna be something of an anticlimax after that last post, but… I’d just like to add that I think James Woods is a fantastic, frequently-underrated actor, who excels even in small parts, for example the one he has in Simon West’s “The General’s Daughter”. Just to think of him in this crap is kinda depressing for me.

    Ok, with that and the Cleveland Steamer thing, I think I’m officially done here. G’night!

  93. The Original... Paul

    August 14th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Oh, one more thing… anybody seen “Bourne LEgacy” yet? I was going to watch it tomorrow. (Today now, I guess!)

  94. ThomasCrown442 – Yeah that’s the guy. I don’t know how I could ever forget such a unique name in the first place.

  95. Lone_Wolf_McWeeny

    August 18th, 2012 at 6:37 am

    I’ve yet to see this movie in its entirety… I’ve only fast forward to the shower sex scene back when I saw it in the 90s on VHS and still do till this day with DVD…

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