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Special

Dir: Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore

Rating: 1.5

Magnet Releasing

81 Minutes

Michael Rapaport is an actor with limited range and you either love him or hate him. Whether he’s cast as Christian Slater’s hapless actor friend in True Romance or being eaten by sharks in Deep Blue Sea, Rapaport will turn in the same performance, guaranteed. He specializes in playing shifty losers that sputter and stumble with an air of unfortunate innocence.

In his latest film, Special, Rapaport plays Les, a down-and-out meter cop who, after signing up for an experimental drug trial, learns that he has superpowers. Or does he? Just like every age-old comic strip genesis story, Les realizes that with great power comes great responsibility and decides to put it to good use; too bad no one believes that he can read minds, walk through walls or fly. Though it is never quite clear if Les’s powers are all in his head (probably,) directors Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore relegate a lot of the film’s short running time to ridiculous stunts featuring Les running into walls and swimming across floors in an attempt to fly.

Superhero movies are supposed to fun. Despite its dark vision, the new Batman still features cool villains and amazing special effects. One of the reasons M. Night Shymalan’s Unbreakable was such an utter failure is that any bit of fun had been vacuumed out of the plot before it hit theaters. Special suffers a similar fate. As it becomes more and more obvious that Les is delusional, we stop laughing at his gaffes and soon just feel sorry for him. He is just a nutcase running around in a homemade costume, tackling supposed evil-doers in a dark, desolate Los Angeles.

The film really skids to a halt when the “suits” from the drug company turn up to silence Les. After a giddy, almost likeable first act, Special slides into a violent, depressing second half that features chopsticks rammed into ear canals and one major character beaten by a wooden beam and then struck repeatedly by a car. It seems that Haberman and Passmore’s film is just as unsure of itself as Les: is Special a comedy, a political statement, an action film or a tragedy? Sure, it takes shots at pharmaceutical companies, but Bulworth and Sicko both used dripping satire to a much more effective end.

Finally, it is Rapaport, an actor who is relegated usually to supporting roles, that makes Special somewhat watchable. Way too many of the film’s limited minutes are spent in tight close-up as Les wanders aimlessly around Los Angeles, but Rapaport does an admirable job with the limited material given him. He might be the only special thing about this film.

by David Harris

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