Special

Special

***

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

"I just realised, there was no reason I couldn't fly"

Les (Michael Rapaport) is a comic-book fan and minion of the city - worse, he's got a purposeless job, as a pushover metermaid. His boss chides him and forces him to repeat his mantra - "I'm important, and I keep this city running". The film chronicles his "medication journal" in taking an experimental new drug - Speciopin Hydrochloride - a futile effort to provide meaning to his lonely life. His consultant, Dr. Dobson (Jack Kehler) hands it out like candy.

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Slowly, he begins developing superpowers, like floating, reading minds, and walking through walls. It is a testament to Haberman and Passmore's skill that we are unsure, at least for the first half of the film, whether any of Les' talents are real or merely imagined as a byproduct of reading faces and intent. Witness the scene where Les finds out he can read minds - Dobson's voice-over is both hilarious and off-kilter. This leads to a scene where he is overwhelmed by a street full of people, the dizzying first-person cinematography and editing work superb at disorienting the viewer too.

Special works well as both a superhero origin story and a tale of psychotic breakdown. We have all the elements needed : the suit, the gifts and the quests. Les' first expression of power, when he stops a hold-up at a Handy Mart, is set-up superbly.

The cool, detached, yet paranoid tone is impressively held, both through visual design and music, until around halfway through, where the Luthor-like pharmaceutical giants make an entrance. Making them out and out villains does nothing for the film. It's hard to empathise with a psycho when he does bad things to good people, so the writers take the easy way out and make the villains irredemable.

Superhero movies work best when the characters are fully expressed, as human as we are. Spider-Man has difficulty with his love-life, Batman is driven with all-too-human obsessions, and Superman is a lonely god. Special, through Rappaport's performance and sad voice-over, drives this home well, his complaints about the less glamourous aspects of superheroism ringing all too true.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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An unexpected reaction to medication persuades an ordinary man that he's developing superpowers.
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Read more Special reviews:

Trinity ***1/2


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