Directors: Hal Haberman & Jeremy Passmore
Writers: Hal Haberman & Jeremy Passmore
Producers: Frank Mele, Edward Parks
Starring: Michael Rapaport, Paul Blackthorne, Josh Peck, Robert Baker, Jack Kehler, Alexandra Holden, Ian Bohen, Christopher Darga
Country: USA
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 81 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

by Andrew James
     I was expecting something good after seeing the trailer for Hal Haberman's Special. I was not expecting something great. Yet that's exactly what I got; an indie film with so much pinache it's destined to hit the states in a big way in 2007. A fun cast, an exciting and unique (a word I'll be using a lot, no doubt, throughout the course of this festival) storyline that had me laughing out loud on several occasions.

      Michael Rapaport plays Les. A down on his luck guy who's not very happy with his life as a parking meter maid, so he signs up for a medical research study in which he'll be given some pills to make him "feel better." The pills almost immediately have an effect on Les as he begins to experince the ability to float in midair, read people's thoughts or run through walls; just to name a few of his new "super" powers. The trouble is, as we soon come to realize, these powers aren't really happening. They're all in his head and he's actually having some very adverse effects from the new medication. This leads to his decision to become a super hero and save people from crime wherever he can find it. Obviously this leads to some hilarious sequences of inadvertant misconduct on Les' part.

      Michael Rapaport very obviously threw himself hard at this project and really gave it his all. I've always thought of Rapaport as an under-rated actor that needed to branch out and try new things, as I'm sure he would excel. In Special, he succeeds at that endeavor most triumphantly.

      The supporting cast, quite simply, rocks. From Les' stoner buddies at the comic book book store that find all of these exciting turn of events an absolute stitch, to Les' doctor played by Jack Kehler (The Dude's landlord in The Big Lebowski). Even the mysterious men in suits bring a sinister edge to the storyline and deliver us this usual and over-used villain charicature in a new way that was a breath of fresh air.

      The script is sheer brilliance and laughingly funny. The scenes in which we hear the voices Les thinks he is hearing interlaced with real conversation that is going on is fantastic. Rapaport's one liners and obvious "wrong" answers to direct questions had me nearly doubled over with laughter. It's a real joy to laugh out loud, OFTEN, in a theater. It's certainly not the funniest movie I've seen over the past year, but it's definitely in the top 5.

      Having said that it's a laughing good time, the film does explore a more serious side to human nature, with a life lesson of what it really means to be special. This is a turn that the story has to take and although it is a welcome one as a way of getting the whole point of the movie across, I have a very personal issue with movies that are very obviously a comedy (albeit a dark comedy) then almost on dime become incredibly serious and heartfelt. Like I said, that's a very personal issue and most people might disagree. It's just something that bugs me (see Adam Sandler's "Click"). But, as I also said, it's an important turn for this particular story and I'm glad it went the way it did. So to pick on the movie for this point is unfair and unjustified.

      Sure to be one of the best films I'll see at The Toronto After Dark Festival, this movie represents all that is magical about independent cinema. The filmmaker's are actually a little ambiguous about whether or not Les really does have these powers. As a viewer, we're just not always sure and this adds so much more interest and suspense to the story. With a final, fantastic climactic duel of good versus evil, Special is exactly that: special.

Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer

IMDb.com - full cast and crew
Official Site