Michael Rapaport (Zebrahead, True Romance, Higher Learning, The Naked Man) stars as Les an underconfident and lonley "Metermaid". Les decides to take part in a medical trail for a drug named "special" which is meant to increase confidence, much in the way that modern antidepressants like Seroxat or Prozac are said to. Les how ever has a serious psychotic reaction to the drug, which is in its final stages of human testing before it goes public. Not long after ingesting the first dose Les an avid comic book fan begins to believe he is developing super powers. The first power that manifests itself is flight or more to the point the ability to hover. Les returns to the offices of the doctor running the trails and while discussing his new found hovering skills he notices the development of telekinesis. Though the Dr tells him to immediately cease taking the medication, Les believes he is telling him via this new power unheard to the rest of the world to continue and develop his powers further. With these two powers seemingly fully developed Les decides the only course of action is to hit the streets for a spot of crime fighting.
Written and directed by Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore Special is a great piece of quirky offbeat American cinema. It works both as a drama with social commentary and as a comedy (all be it very dark). I genuinely found myself laughing at points in this film and wincing at others. It's also great in that it leaves you thinking about it for some time after. All the cast give really good performances managing both the comic and dramatic with natural ease. Michael Rapaport is excellent in the lead as the increasingly disturbed Les playing it very straight and yet being at times very funny. Josh Peck and Robert Baker as comic store owning brothers Joey and Everett who form Les' only friends have a great onscreen dynamic. Paul Blackthorne (From TV's "The Dresden Files") has a great turn as Jonas Exiler one of two brothers who have spent the last five years developing "Special" and who is eager for nothing to get in the way. Les running round in a silver costume tacking "criminals" while wearing the drugs logo on his back is of course going to get in the way sooner or later. Michael Rapaport is no stranger to edgier slightly more independent American cinema with films like Coen brothers collaborator J. Todd Anderson's "Naked Man" under his belt, but Special is a really perfect role for his "everyman" looks and his performance in the role is pretty much spot on.
Though the idea that part of the problems we face as individuals in society stem from the fact we are constantly told work hard and you will make it. Yet billions of us can't all "make it" what ever we do has been covered in other films such as "Fight Club". Special for me really captures this better than almost anything else I have seen. It's a hard thing to admit especially in this Famous for nothing myspace/ipod/twitter generation that life is going to for the vast majority consist of work/eat/sleep/shit repeat with some sex, movies and video gaming in between. While there are many people who genuinely need the likes of Seroxat and Prozac for heavy chemical imbalance related depression, eating disorders, Obsessive compulsive disorder and panic attacks there is always that creeping feeling that there's a large amount of people who are taking these pills for things which are just part of life. People describe themselves as "depressed" when really they are "sad", being sad unfortunately is just one of those things you have to deal with in life and not the same as being medically depressed and you have to wonder should people really be popping pills for shyness and confidence issues.
There are some minor issues with the film, it feels a bit short and I felt the filmmakers where, like often happens in "independent" American cinema trying just that bit too hard to make the whole thing have an "indie" vibe. There's no real reason the camera should be shaking when you film the side of a stationary building with nothing else in shot. The music is a bit along the lines of "that-music-you-get-in-indie-films" and I'm not convinced that it needed the look they gave the film which feels lower quality than needed (though not bad). How ever these things should not really interfere with what is essentially a very enjoyable film. If you passed over this not convinced by the synopsis on the back of the DVD go back and rent or buy it, this is a better bit of independent American cinema than the likes of "garden State" or "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" in my personal opinion. I get the feeling that much like a film like "Milwaukee, Minnesota" it's not going to be talked about in the same breath as those two (overrated) movies because it lack the big stars "Dressing down".
Special is an engaging, darkly comic piece of American cinema that leaves you thinking about life.