Experts, The (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Dennis Seuling
  • Review Date: Jul 10, 2023
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
  • Bookmark and Share
Experts, The (Blu-ray Review)


Dave Thomas

Release Date(s)

1989 (May 9, 2023)


Paramount Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: C+

The Experts (Blu-ray)

Buy it Here!


In 1989, John Travolta had already made Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and Urban Cowboy and become a highly bankable star. The Experts is a lightweight comedy that relies on Travolta’s on-screen charisma and an interesting premise.

Travis (Travolta) and Wendell (Arye Gross) are a couple of New Yorkers who have been seeking jobs and business opportunities in the dance club scene to no avail. Observing this hapless duo, KGB operative Mr. Smith (Charles Martin Smith) offers them big bucks to open a nightclub in the Midwest. A more unlikely pair would be hard to find. Not swift enough to ask questions such as “Why us?” or “How did you find us?,” they agree and are soon flown on a private jet to what they’re told is Indian Springs, Nebraska.

On the plane, however, their champagne is drugged and they are flown instead to a replica of a small American town in the Soviet Union designed to train KGB agents to fit in smoothly when they are assigned posts in America. Knowing that the town and its inhabitants look like relics of the 1950s, Smith has convinced his superiors that Travis and Wendell will add authenticity to the training by acclimating the agents to American culture in the 1980s.

Smith keeps throwing money at whatever the Americans say is needed to set up a hot nightclub. Meanwhile, the guys become attracted to female agents. Travis locks eyes on Bonnie (Kelly Preston) and there’s definite and instant chemistry between them. Preston is knock-down dead gorgeous and the two perform a sensual dance that is far more interesting than the tepid script. Travolta and Preston would soon marry in real life.

Travolta does his best with a thinly written role. There’s an energy to his performance and he tries harder than the script deserves. The camaraderie between Travolta and Gross works, though Gross’ role is underwritten. The film was clearly designed as a Travolta vehicle to infuse some of his Saturday Night Fever magic into the project. Scenes with Preston seem authentic, probably because there was genuine heat between them. He’s not just going through the motions and neither is she. In other scenes, although he tries to look engaged, he’s fighting an uphill battle with lackluster writing.

Gross is enjoyable as the sidekick Wendell, who goes along with the scheme despite misgivings. His screen time decreases as the film progresses, which is a shame, since enlarging his role could have offered the opportunity to add some badly needed comedy.

Director Dave Thomas, by his own admission in the enclosed interview, is the kind of director who points the camera and calls “Action.” His direction shows little imagination. Travolta himself choreographed the steamy dance with Kelly Preston, giving the picture its sole highlight. For a comedy, there are not many laughs and the intended ones are telegraphed. Comedy depends on surprise but The Experts follows a simple, easy-to-anticipate trajectory.

The look of the film is drenched in 80s fashion sins: Travolta’s greasy mullet, Gross’ balloon pants, women’s dangling earrings, and Preston’s huge hair jump out and practically attack the viewer as prime mistakes of the decade’s fashions.

By no means a comedy classic, The Experts was not successful when originally released. Innocuous and mild fun, it’s a flawed film that may have missed an interesting approach. Why not build suspense by not revealing early on the KGB plan? Let the audience believe that the two pals really are in Nebraska. This would have allowed the film to have a Big Reveal moment.

The Experts was shot by director of photography Ronnie Taylor on 35 mm film with Panavision Panaflex Gold cameras and Canon K35 lenses, and presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The Blu-ray release is sourced from a new 4K scan of the 35 mm original camera negative prepared at Paramount Pictures. The image is pristine with details beautifully rendered. Especially impressive are Kelly Preston’s hair, Gross’ baggy outfits, vintage automobiles, and idealized homes and stores in the KGB “town.” Complexions come across effectively, with Preston’s looking especially creamy smooth. Travolta’s dimple and piercing blue eyes dominate the screen in his close-ups, but his facial stubble can be seen as well. The color palette comes to life when Travis and Wendell get to “Indian Springs.” Reds, yellows, and greens practically pop off the screen. Camera work is not inventive, but the Travis/Bonnie dance is shot from a number of angles, reminding us how good Travolta is on the dance floor.

The soundtrack is English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are an available option. Dialogue is crisp and clear. Russian accents are nearly absent despite much of the picture taking place in the Soviet Union. This is likely because the Russian agents-in-training have been ordered to speak only in English. This device saves a lot of conflicting accents. The score by Marvin Hamlisch has an intentional club-like feel and is helpful in buoying up the thin plot. Ambient music and background noise are well balanced and never overpower dialogue. Sound effects, such as a large airplane taking off, Russian trucks in pursuit, and a truck crashing through a fence add excitement.

Bonus materials include the following:

  • Comrades in Film: The Making of The Experts (13:13)
  • The Experts Trailer (1:32)
  • Moment By Moment Trailer (1:34)
  • Staying Alive Trailer (2:59)
  • Secret Admirer Trailer (1:33)
  • Running Scared Trailer (1:30)
  • Gotcha! Trailer (1:35)
  • Crackers Trailer (:34)
  • The Nude Bomb Trailer (2:48)

Comrades in Film – Dave Thomas notes that Paramount offered him the opportunity to direct a buddy film. He was interested and found out that John Travolta was already attached to the project. Some scenes as scripted didn’t work. Travolta and Thomas re-wrote them before filming. The scene of Travis eating cereal in the kitchen was the key to who the character is. Travolta knew his Travis character so well that Thomas’ direction was minimal. It was important to find the “right temperature” to play the characters. Some bits were “cooked up” impromptu on the set. Casting called for someone really hot to play against Travolta. Beautiful Kelly Preston got along well with Travolta on the set and the two pursued a deeper relationship, eventually marrying. Preston was very smart and very talented. Travolta created all the moves for his dance number with Preston. Thomas refers to The Experts as “good spirited.”

Despite its failings, The Experts has its good points. The ending makes Travis and Wendell heroes of a sort, giving them a stature they never could have achieved before their global adventure. At 94 minutes, the film is paced briskly and doesn’t linger too long on weak scenes. Travolta’s star power contributes significantly to turning a tepid comedy into a likable one.

- Dennis Seuling