out of Five
Running time: 82
Enjoyable comedy drama with a clever premise, some hilarious gags and a great performance from Rapaport.
What's it all about?
Directed by Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore, this low budget indie stars Michael Rapaport as Les (pronounced Less), a comic book-reading traffic warden who starts taking some pills as part of an experimental drug trial. The pills are meant to reduce self-doubt but they make him think he's a superhero with increasingly hilarious (or actually decreasingly hilarious, as the film gets darker as it goes on) results.
The film makes the most of its low budget limitations, using clever effects work to extremely winning effect. The script cleverly flips between what Les thinks is happening and what his stunned observers actually see – the scene where he demonstrates his running through walls powers is extremely funny and the telepathy scene is a minor comic gem.
Rapaport is superb as Les, he must have been taking acting lessons during his lengthy screen absence. There's also good support from Alexandra Holden (as a checkout girl with a stutter that Les has a crush on), from Jack Kehler (as the doctor who prescribes the drugs) and from Josh Peck as Les' comic store-owning best friend.
The film works on several levels – as an examination of chemically-induced paranoia, as a cautionary fable or as a bizarre fantasy flick. In addition, there are several hilarious lines and Haberman and Passmore include some nice touches, such as Les' pathetic superhero suit.
The only problem with the film is that the film-makers want to have it both ways and inject a note of ambiguity late into the proceedings.
This weakens the central idea and feels like it was something they came up with whilst they were shooting, rather than an idea that was there to begin with.
Despite its flaws, Special is an enjoyable, off-beat film that is disturbing, darkly funny and ultimately moving. Worth seeing.