Standing out in a crowd is a lot more dependent on those who don’t, than one might think. Aspiring to greatness could not exist, without all the ordinary people that constitute the sea of humanity surrounding those incorrigible dreamers. And co-directors Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore aim to lend generous amounts of appreciative sympathy and satire to that notion, while tapping into the inner extraordinary being in every little guy, yearning to break free.
Michael Rapaport (Zebrahead, Bamboozled) does double duty in a peculiar sense in Special as Les, a dejected parking meter agent convinced that he’s been suddenly blessed with superpowers. At the same time, Rapaport seems to have come into his own here as a character actor breaking out of that mold to shine as full fledged leading man, however wacky.
Les is a childish, insecure sourpuss loner determined to turn his life around, by entering an experimental drug program that promises to erase all self-doubts with the pop of a pill. But the depressed loser experiences an unusual reaction to the drug, and imagines that he’s now a superhero crimefighter who can walks through walls and instantly clobber wrongdoers.
The problem is that he’s unknowingly smashing into walls and targeted perps instead, which results in a body covered with bruises, and police and angry villains alike in pursuit. And when the pharmaceutical company in question learns about this notorious neighborhood menace who has come to be known as The Mad Tackler, they join the chase, eager to do away with Les as emergency damage control before he can generate bad press and loss of drug profits.
Special could have been more of that, if the movie had concentrated on the comically sinister local drug wars and social implications of those dangerous corporate suits, and, well, less on Les caught in the fray of all that head-bashing, prankster mode of moviemaking. In any case, the deadly side effect warnings whispered in the background of all those gleeful controlled substance commercials flooding television sets across America lately, will likely never again sound quite the same.
2 1/2 stars