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Blast from the Past Movie Review – “Special” (2005)

September 4, 2011

Before “Super”, “Griff the Invisible”, “Defendor”, & “Kick-Ass”, there was “Special”. What was convinced to be the start of the indie-superhero film, turns out it’s not really a superhero movie at all, but an interesting character study about someones self destruction into maddness, thinking he’s a superhero. Writer/directors Hal Haberman & Jeremy Passmore make their feature debut. While the plot may wear thin at times, it’s Michael Rapaport’s endearing performance that makes this movie a special viewing.

Les (Rapaport) was an ordinary metermaid with the occasional social problems. One day he enrolls in a drug study for an experimental anti-depressant pill. An unexpected side effect of the drug convinces Les he is developing super powers. He decides that he must quit his job to answer his new calling in life to be the leather suit wearing superhero, Special. But, the drug isn’t all what it’s cracked out to be, when in actuallity Les is losing his grip on reality. To him he has powers, but to everyone around him, including his comic book reading buds (Josh Peck & Robert Baker), he’s just a crazy guy running into walls and standing on his two feet, thinking he’s going through walls & floating in the air. Les runs into trouble with the suits of the pharmecutical company they think Les wants to sue them for the faulty reactions of the medication, when really Les thinks these guys are villains after him. Will Les get a handle on reality or accept is new found reality?

The films story is a bit on the hokey side, there isn’t much for it to go with. Les takes experimental drugs, he starts to lose it, and like you imagine the people of the company go after him because he’s a liabilty. It’s somewhat predictable here and there. But what makes this movie a good watch is Michael Rapaport’s performance. Here we’re given an actor who is never given the chance to be a lead in a movie and now he finally has that moment. In the past he was known for his goofy supporting roles, but here, he gets the chance to actually succeed in the dramatic side. The last 25 minute of the film really is a clear indication of his ability as an actor. Which is a shame, I’d actually like to see more dramatic lead roles for him.

The visual style is clever, when it flip flops back and forth between us seeing Les use his “special powers” to what we’re actually supposed to see, you get this connection to the character’s maddness, and you really feel for him. The directors aren’t afraid to show the empathy of this poor loser. As a loser story goes, I feel that the attention of the character won’t be overlooked by the viewer. The dirty cinematography adds to the realism of the story, which I liked a lot. Look, I’ll admit it, “Special” may be a hard sell, it’s quite depressing when it comes down to it, it’s about a guy losing his grip on reality. It’s not the most perfect film in the world, but for what it is it’s smart enough to leave you glad you found it in the discounted $5 DVD bin.


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