Reviewed by: Trinity

Les Franken (Michael Rapaport) is an unremarkable man in a deadend job as a put upon "metermaid" - hardly the pinup position in the police force. He and his friends seek escape in comic book superheroes, but even so, Les realises his life is both lonely and irrelevant. So he signs up for a trial of a new anti-depressant drug, Specioprin Hydrochloride (aka Special), which helps to remove the self-doubt from those who use it. But with Les, it has another unique and life-changing side effect - it gives him superpowers.

Haberman and Passmore's twist on the superhero tale takes an alternative, and wryly comic, take on the subject. For whilst Les is floating in the air, reading minds and walking through walls his audience - both internal and external to the film - can only look on in confusion and bemusement. He doesn't really have superpowers - but does that matter?

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Rapaport is excellent in the main role. His internal monologue reveals the tortured existence superheroes must have - the guilt, the multitude of voices, the difficulty of finding crimes to stop. His chosen outfit, an all white hoodie, brings to mind the Unabomber or a chemical disaster suit - hardly something that projects a positive image. And yet his heart is in the right place and, whether by coincidence or by being special, he manages to make a difference.

Unfortunately, the film does end up feeling like a one trick pony. Shorn of the lead performance, the film feels lightweight, neither layering a complex, labyrinthine thriller on top (Fight Club) nor drifting into the realms of fantasy and relationships (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind). Instead it does its own thing, much like Les, without any traces of self-doubt. There are some bum notes: by making the baddies in suits actually bad, rather than leaving them as just money-grabbing, the ending is not as bittersweetly satisfying. It is also a shame that the awkward romance between Les and Maggie (Holden) is not given more play - her existence as an overworked checkout girl is a nice parallel.

Yet it's hard not to like this film. It has a punch far harder than any big budget hero franchise and an ability to read your mind at times. Not a super movie but special none the less.

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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Scott Macdonald ***

Director: Hal Haberman, Jeremy Passmore

Writer: Hal Haberman, Jeremy Passmore

Starring: Michael Rapaport, Paul Blackthorne, Josh Peck, Robert Baker, Jack Kehler, Alexandra Holden, Ian Bohen, Christopher Darga, Erich Anderson, David Bear, Karyn Bryant, Amanda Carlin, Howard Ferguson, Howard Ferguson-Woitzman, Andrew Leeds

Year: 2006

Runtime: 82 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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