A.V. Club Most Read

News Newswire Great Job, Internet!
TV Club All Reviews What's On Tonight
Video All Video A.V. Undercover A.V. Cocktail Club Film Club
Reviews All Reviews Film TV Music Books
Features All Features TV Club Coming Distractions
Sections Film Tv Music Food Comedy Books Games Aux
Our Company About Us Contact Advertise Privacy Policy Careers RSS
Onion Inc. Sites The Onion The A.V. Club ClickHole Onion Studios




Director: Jeremy Passmore & Hal Haberman
Runtime: 84 minutes
Cast: Paul Blackthorne

Community Grade (3 Users)

  • A
  • A-
  • B+
  • B
  • B-
  • C+
  • C
  • C-
  • D+
  • D
  • D-
  • F

Your Grade


At a time when superhero movies have a seemingly limitless grip on the popular imagination, a micro-budget indie like Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore's Special stands out for suggesting why that might be. Without the money for big effects—or more than a handful of locations, for that matter—the film instead looks inward, ruminating on how the superhero myth can tap into private fantasies and delusions of grandeur. Through the story of a comic-book fan who becomes convinced he has special powers, Haberman and Passmore take the subgenre to a comic/melancholic place that's common to a lot of independent films, but nonetheless affecting and sweet. Its ambitions are limited—though at 81 minutes, wisely proportioned—but its heart is in the right place.

Stepping out for a rare lead role (not including his regrettable Fox sitcom The War At Home), Michael Rapaport carries the film with his loveable earnestness and a meek disposition that belies his giant frame. As the film opens, he lives alone and works as a Los Angeles parking-meter cop, undoubtedly the least respected position on the force. On the side, he participates in a clinical trial for a drug called Specioprin Hydrocloride (or "Special"), which is designed to limit the user's sense of self-doubt. The drug does all that and more: Not only does Rapaport gain new confidence, he can also levitate, read people's thoughts, and walk through walls. Naturally, he dons a homemade costume and uses his newfound powers to exact some small-scale vigilante justice, mostly on would-be shoplifters and stick-up men.

The trouble with Rapaport's powers, of course, is that only he's convinced he has them, which leads to some funny scenes where he runs smack into walls and belly-flops onto the floor. (He dismisses the nosebleeds and cuts all over his body as a necessary toll.) With its ironic take on heroism and a dreamy music score by Tom Wolfe and Manish Raval, Special recalls a minor-key Donnie Darko, but its vision is much more limited, and it sinks into Indiewood cliché whenever it reaches for profundity. But many people will see themselves in Rapaport's half-crazed stab at greatness.