Los Angeles Times - 11/28/2008
"Written and directed by Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore, SPECIAL is a low-stakes charmer, nicely acted by Rapaport, who never looks down on the character's delusions."
Box Office - 12/01/2008 3 stars out of 5 -- "Charmingly pragmatic construction and a small but well-collected cast round out a solid and endearing picture."
Les (Michael Rapaport) is a gentle parking cop who, while not specifically depressed, is numbed by an implacable sense that his extraordinariness is being nibbled away, piece by piece. He enters a study for an experimental drug designed to suppress feelings of self-doubt. "When will I start feeling different'" he asks the clinician with heartbreaking hopeful innocence in the movie's first scene. But, after some time on the drug, Les begins to experience superpowers he doesn't really have, which worries his doctor as much as it does his two comic-book-store-owning friends, and really gets troublesome when he engages in a series of assaults on telepathically-revealed "criminals."
Here is a heady concoction that arises from quite the blending of elements. SPECIAL is saturated with a feverish realist-expressionist-hybrid aesthetic reminiscent of Michel Gondry. It also sports a high-concept premise that might have befitted Rob Schneider if it weren't subverted by a horror-show acknowledgement of its own devastating psychological weight. And, though it is an American indie, it's not unlike such Canadian comedies as Vincenzo Natali's NOTHING in the way it skewers many of its dramatic narrative trappings--namely, its villains--without forsaking an oddball sense of ominousness. Still, despite SPECIAL's similarities to those styles, genres, and specific movies--not to mention its thematic connection to DONNIE DARKO--it's a lot less derivative and considerably more even-tempered than one might imagine. Rapaport's sympathetically tragicomic performance and his powerhouse ability to layer scary psychosis on top of sweet likeability help SPECIAL achieve its against-all-odds cohesive tone. So does its decided depiction of the script's most slapstick moments--the violent pratfalls that occur when our cheerfully delusional hero tries to run through walls and is met with nasty bruises and the upset reactions of bystanders--as just a bit more sad and disturbing than humorously relieving.
Les Franken (MICHAEL RAPAPORT) is a kind-hearted and soft-spoken man who loves reading comic books. He's the type of guy who most people walk by on the street without even noticing; in essence, he's completely average and virtually invisible. However, everything changes for Les the day he is accepted into an experimental drug study. As he begins to take the drugs, an unexpected