Monday, June 06, 2016
Sorely lacking in action, THE EXPERT’s screenplay by noted crime novelist Max Allan Collins is a muddled pro-death-penalty screed that pours too many subplots and characters into a blender and spits out nothing of consequence. The courtroom scenes bear no resemblance to any American jurisprudence and are a phony excuse to trot out the old “what about the rights of the victims” plot again.
The victim is Jenny Lomax (Michelle Nagy), John’s younger sister, and when her killer, the smarmy Martin Kagan (ANGELFIST's Michael Shaner), is sentenced to a mental institution instead of Death Row, John doesn’t think it’s punishment enough. The number of real-world serial killers who have been set free after a couple of years in a hospital is pretty low, to the best of my memory, but Collins and Avery are under the impression it happens as often as bears crap in woods. To prevent Kagan from “walking” one day, Lomax loads up on weapons from Vietnam vet Snake (a ponytailed Jim Flippin' Varney in a colorful one-day cameo) and breaks into prison so he can kill the killer.
Dr. Alice Barnes (Alex Datcher) is the prison’s new assistant warden, a namby-pamby liberal shrink who works for prisoners’ rights and gets Kagan’s sentence reduced (one of the pointless subplots involves her molestation by her late father, a hard-nosed prison warden worshipped by the current hard-nosed warden, played hammily by James Brolin). The film cops out on its vigilante theme by having Kagan escape and go on a shooting spree while Lomax is breaking in, making it okay for him to kill in self-defense. Avery has a good eye for action, and the fights and stunts are handled quite well. If only THE EXPERT had more of it.
I’ve rested the blame for this mediocre picture on Collins and Avery, because their names are on the screen. THE EXPERT was a troubled production with Collins rewriting an original screenplay by low-budget auteur Larry Cohen (IT’S ALIVE), Collins being rewritten by original director William Lustig (MANIAC COP), who walked off the picture during shooting, and everyone being rewritten by Speakman, who needed the script to reflect what he thought his fans wanted to see. Too Many Cooks Syndrome often leads to watered-down creative, and it’s safe to say all the interference on THE EXPERT did the film no favors.