“I know I’m too old to love comics as much as I do. But, in comics, the villain can launch a missile at a superhero and the hero just keeps on coming. And then the villain can throw an atomic bomb, or an asteroid, or an entire planet at the hero, but that won’t stop them either, because a real superhero’s like a force of nature and when I read comics I get a faint glimpse of what it would be like to be not just stronger, or faster, or smarter than ordinary people, but what it would be like to be unstoppable”.
Who among us hasn’t felt that way at one time or another in our lives? We all have the desire to feel that in some way we are…Special.
Les (Rapaport) is a Parking Enforcement Officer, or meter maid, to the average joe. He’s socially awkward and lacks any kind of self confidence. While not suffering from any specific mental handicap, he doesn’t really function very well in the world. He lives in a world of the comic books he reads. It’s there that he can escape into a world where he is able to thrive. One day he signs up for a drug clinical trail. The drug, Specioprin Hydrochloride, is intended to suppress self doubt and give the patient a degree of confidence. On the first night he discovers that the drug has given him the power of levitation. Later, at the doc’s office for a check-up, he discovers he also has the power of telepathy. He communicates with the doctor, using this new power, where the doctor tells him to disregard anything he says aloud, because someone is watching. He’s told to continue to take the drug and eventually his superpowers will become permanent. Meanwhile the doctor’s audible voice is warning him to discontinue the drug because he might be suffering from a mental side effect. Soon Les discovers even more powers. The question is: does he have superpowers, or is he simply crazy? He decides that with great power comes great responsibility. Okay, he doesn’t actually say that, but he does decide to use his powers to fight crime, just like all of the comic heroes he admires. He develops a costume that looks like a cross between Army snow camouflage and an astronaut’s suit. On his back he places the emblem for the drug he’s taking. He begins to get media attention. His actions look to the public as if he’s merely randomly tackling people. When the drug executives see what he’s doing, while wearing their logo two thugs are sent out to bring him in and get him off the drug. Is the purpose to help him, or to strip him of his powers? Either way, every superhero needs an arch nemesis, and these guys will do fine for Les.
I tried not to like this film. I mean, the plot is just simply stupid, on the surface. What it does have is heart, and you can credit all of that to Michael Rapaport. I haven’t seen much of Rapaport in the past. He might be best known for his run on Boston Public. I’ll certainly be watching for him in the future. Likely he’s never been given a part that had so much emotion to it before. Whatever the reason, he simply shines here. The rest of the cast doesn’t really matter. We see these characters in whatever way that Les sees them. Rapaport makes all of that possible. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter if he has these powers or not. The film appears to lead you down the path that he indeed does not. What does matter is that Les develops the confidence he didn’t have before. No matter what comes at him, and you won’t believe the beating this guy takes, he doesn’t give up. He finally becomes quite…unstoppable.
This film isn’t for everyone. There are no pat answers and no definitive ending. One character literally carries the film on his back. It’s not that the rest of the cast isn’t good. They’re fine. But they make the film very ordinary. We have a ton of ordinary films out there. You might not get too many answers, but the questions will be well worth your time. Don’t miss this one.
Special is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This isn’t the most pleasing film visually. Colors are quite drab and intentionally desaturated. All of it appears as if in a dream world. The cinematographer relied a lot on natural location lighting. That means the picture is not perfectly lit, and black levels aren’t all that great. There is a lot of grain at times, but it’s all intentional. Before long you won’t even be thinking about the image quality as soon as you allow yourself to be sucked into Les’s world.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is much more problematic. I had to really crank my amp to get any respectable levels. Of course, whenever you do something like that, it brings with it its own collection of sins such as hiss. I’m not sure what the problem is, but the audio stinks.
Outtakes: 4 minutes of the usual stuff here.
HDNet – A Look At Special: This 4 minute piece is really just an extended trailer.
When you were a kid you probably put a sheet around your neck and pretended to be Superman. For me it was leotard PJ’s, and I was Spider-Man. Yeah, we were just kids, and we knew we were playing. But, weren’t there moments, maybe for just a few seconds, when you thought about what it would be like if it were real? Didn’t you think once or twice that it could happen to you? Did you ever jump off the bed in that cape and just think for a second you might actually start flying? Kids live in a world that’s a little different from our own. But, do you remember a time when “Anything’s possible”?