Michael Rapaport in SPECIAL

This was the official website for the 2006 film, Special, starring Michael Rapaport. Content is from the site's 2006 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.

LES FRANKEN (Michael Rapaport) leads a painfully unremarkable life as a metermaid until he enrolls in a drug study for an experimental anti-depressant. An unexpected side effect of the drug convinces Les he is developing special powers and must quit his job to answer his new calling in life... as a superhero.

A very select group of people in life are truly gifted. Special is a movie about everyone else.

Directors: Hal Haberman, Jeremy Passmore
Writers: Hal Haberman, Jeremy Passmore
Stars: Michael Rapaport, Paul Blackthorne, Josh Peck

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REVIEWS

SPECIAL

Rating: **** By  Richard Scheib

USA. 2006.

Directors/Screenplay – Hal Haberman & Jeremy Passmore, Producers – Frank Mele & Edward Parks, Photography – Nelson Cragg, Music – Manish Raval & Tom Wolfe, Visual Effects Supervisor – Michael Leone, Production Design – Nathan Amondson. Production Company – Rival Pictures.

Cast:

Michael Rapaport (Les Franken), Paul Blackthorne (Jonas Exiler), Jack Kehler (Dr Dobson), Robert Baker (Everett), Josh Peck (Joey), Alexandra Holden (Maggie), Ian Bohen (Ted Exiler), Christopher Darga (Steve)

Plot: Les Franken is a lonely Los Angeles parking ticket officer who enjoys reading comic-books. He signs up as a trial subject of the new drug Special for the Exiler Group. Immediately after taking the pills, Les discovers that he has superpowers – he is able to float off the floor, can read minds and walk through walls. However, other people are unable to see these things. After using his telepathy to detect and stop an armed robber in a convenience store, Les quits his job and decides to become a full-time superhero. He makes himself a costume and sets out to stop other armed robbers. However, his tackling people has him listed as a crazy by the police. This also brings him to the attention of the Exiler brothers who have funded the drug trials. They determine to stop Les to prevent him from discrediting their drug, while he becomes convinced that they are super-villains who are trying to stop him.

In the last couple of years, the superhero parody has focused on the story of the superhero who has no powers, is merely a deluded individual who either believes that they are a superhero or is trying to enact some form of personal justice by donning costume. See the likes of Defendor (2009), Griff the Invisible (2010), Kick-Ass (2010) and Super (2010), as well as Superheroes (2011), a documentary about people who dress as superheroes and fight crime in the real world. Before all of these however, there was Special. It never gained much of a profile when it came out but was there first and does the idea with considerable brilliance. Before that, the idea had earlier been tentatively conducted by other films like Hero at Large (1980), Blankman (1994) and Orgazmo (1997).

Special hits in with a decided weirdness. The opening scenes as Michael Rapaport signs up for the drug trial have a thorough normalcy, while his voiceover narration pinpoints the role of a sad nobody living an invisible life with great accuracy. A few minutes in we then get the baffling image of Rapaport sitting in his apartment where he suddenly floats up off the floor. This is contrasted to the next scene where he is in the trial doctor (Jack Kehler)’s office and tries to demonstrate his ability to fly and the film cuts between him diving off the desk and floating a few inches off the ground before pulling back to show the doctor’s point-of-view where he is squiggling on his stomach on the floor. Things get even more bizarre a few minutes later where Jack Kehler is trying to treat him and Rapaport keeps hearing telepathic conversations that say completely different things and tell him it is all part of a plan to give him superpowers.

The central character’s insistence on the actuality of his superpowers becomes hysterical – there is the hilarious scene where Michael Rapaport walks into a police station and offers his services, trying to convince a desk sergeant of a signal device to call him if needed “It doesn’t have to be as complicated as the Batsignal” and then attempts to demonstrate his powers by walking through a wall, only to run smack into it. The dexterity of the games the film plays in the constant switches between the subjective portrayal of Michael Rapaport’s superpowers and the objective view of others who can see nothing is bewildering. There is the mind-boggling scene where Rapaport is in a limo talking with drug company exec Paul Blackthorne who is explaining the fact that the drug has side effects at the same time as Rapaport starts having a conversation with a double of himself in the seat opposite who explains he has time travelled back from the future, or where Rapaport flees from Ian Bohen and starts squirming on the ground believing he is trapped in an invisible forcefield. The filmmakers love taking the opportunity to screw with our perception and throw what we are seeing on its head – like the scene where Rapaport takes the two comic-book store brothers to Jack Kehler, who has been established as a regular pharmaceutical doctor, to corroborate his story only for Kehler to deny ever having seen Rapaport before.

The film arrives at a particularly good ending [PLOT SPOILERS] wherein Michael Rapaport finally comes down off the drugs and walks away, realising in a potently sad voiceover that he has no superpowers and is entirely ordinary. He is then abruptly hit by a car – given the tone of his voiceover and the staging of the shot, we cannot initially be sure that it is not a suicide and he has thrown himself in front of it. It turns out to be Paul Blackthorne and brother in the limo who have deliberately run him down. Rapaport then gets to his feet and Blackthorne reverses to run him down again, at the same time as the bruised and bleeding Rapaport struggles to get back up, showing his defiance of his fate with every attempt, eventually forcing Blackthorne to back down. It is a beautiful ending in its swinging between the poles of despair and tenacious defiance.

Michael Rapaport, an actor who seems to have been stuck in roles as dim-witted characters in the likes of Mighty Aphrodite (1995) and Cop Land (1997), does an exceptional job in the central role, getting an acute sense of the character’s loneliness, social awkwardness and certainty in the actuality of his superpowers. There is a performance of endearing sweetness from the up and rising Alexandra Holden, while everybody else in the cast delivers fine work.

Special was a directing and writing debut for newcomers Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore who sadly have not had the opportunity to do anything else since. You would certainly welcome their return to the director’s chair someday soon. Passmore did eventually go on to write the remake of Red Dawn (2012).

(Winner in this site’s Top 10 Films of 2006 list. Nominee for Best Original Screenplay at this site’s Best of 2006 Awards).

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NOVEMBER 14, 2008 by EDWARD CHAMPION

Review: Special (2006)

There are severe problems with Hal Haberman & Jeremy Passmore’s Special — scheduled to play on November 21st in Los Angeles and New York as the second film in Magnet Releasing’s very intriguing Six Shooter Film Series. (I have also seen Timecrimes, a very fun time travel movie from Spain that I can recommend to you. Timecrimes manages to do everything right that Special does so wrong, and I will write about it later.)

Here is a film that strives to be a partial satirical sendup of the pharmaceutical industry, but that gives us a protagonist who has little going for him other than a crush on a stuttering supermarket clerk and a loose friendship with two brothers who work at a comic book store. Here is a film ridiculing an average Joe (or, in this case, an average Les) who clings to kind acts and antidepressants to find some personal meaning, but that likewise asks us to empathize with him after he has been beaten to a pulp. Here is a film attempting to celebrate the geeky fantasy of having superpowers, but that lacks the bravery to suggest that some of our seemingly insignificant acts are less solipsistic and more meaningful than the ability to walk through walls.

Here is a case in which Les isn’t more, and he really needs to be in order for the premise to work. He’s a gushing parking enforcement officer played with too much earnestness by Michael Rapaport. We first see Les as a thrashed up man wandering in the night, with a handheld camera drifting in and out of focus. “I used to dream about flying,” says Les in the first of many voiceovers. We learn that this narration represents what he styles his medication journal. Les has signed up for a clinical trial program. (The doctor is named Dobson, which may be a nod to the evangelical Christian.) Rather suspiciously, Les is not asked to take any physical tests. The pills are handed over, and he’s asked to ingest a new phramaceutical called Specioprin Hydrochloride. Nothing happens at first. But shortly after eating a sad microwaved meal in his apartment, a mostly barren place populated by a few comic book posters hanging behind the couch, he finds himself levitating in his living room. He rushes back to the doctor to demonstrate his abilities, and it soon becomes apparent that all this is in his mind. He soon quits his job, determined to pursue a new life as a crimefighter (and to avoid the dreaded mantra, “I’m important and I keep this city running,” that his boss frequently has him utter). Aside from the power to fly and the ability to run through walls, Les also believes that he can read minds and make objects disappear.

This all sounds like a fantastic premise. And you’d think that a movie featuring a Takeshi Kitano-like scene in which Les punctures a man’s ear with chopsticks would have the spirit to pull this premise off. But the filmmakers have foolishly placed their collective faith in a high concept idea, when they really needed to pay attention to human behavior. I got the sense that Haberman and Passmore weren’t particularly interested in the way that ordinary people feel and think. And I desperately desired for someone to send them a crate of Stewart O’Nan and Richard Yates novels.

This contempt was evident when Les’s frequent tackling of potential suspects is broadcast on the evening news. The video is played over and over, as if it were a crude YouTube video or a Jackass outtake, with the Channel 3 anchor declaring, “Let’s take one more look at it.” It’s there in the hard rock music that plays as Les runs around the city in his makeshift costume. We’re expected to laugh at Les’s cluelessness. But this film takes itself seriously. And when a film wants us to care like this, it should not treat its main character like something to be pummeled in a Punch and Judy show.

The contempt is also there in the PG-rated thoughts that Les “hears” in his mind. (One man says, “Sweet juicy peach.” His girlfriend calls for peach cobbler.) Now this is an interesting choice from the filmmakers. You would think that a man who has been repeatedly tricked out of issuing parking tickets, who has indeed been called an “asshole” by a woman offering a maudlin sob story, would have a less chaste view of other people’s “thoughts.” But the filmmakers don’t want to transport us into this very interesting place. We’re expected to accept Les as nothing more than a pathetic and bumbling thirtysomething hick who got hoodwinked into the drug program because he was “happy” and he didn’t quite know his place. And with such a one-dimensional portrait, we can neither hate him nor like him, much less be interested in him. And this is simply not good enough for a narrative that wants to matter. It is also a terrible cheat to present an undeveloped character, have him periodically abuse himself by running into walls or getting mugged by thugs, and then try to ramrod the audience into sympathizing with him.

Les doesn’t get a chance to breathe, even though Rapaport does manage to sell a fight sequence in which his assailants are “invisible,” but beat him up anyway. I was reminded of the moment in Fight Club in which Edward Norton punches himself. But that moment worked, because we were damn curious about how far Norton’s character would go. What does Rapaport have react to? “You have no idea what kind of man I am, motherfucker,” followed by a flip courtesy of digitally erased wires.

There is also one glaring plot hole. If the “suits” from the drug company are after Les, and they want him to stop taking the experimental drug, why don’t they just wait for Les’s bottle of pills to run out? It is suggested multiple times in this movie that Les’s condition will continue so long as he pops the pills. But so far as we know, he only has one bottle. Certainly if the drug company wanted to leave Les out in the cold, they could simply wait it out. But instead they resort to violence. And they drive a fancy limo around town, with the men wearing bloody suits and drawing attention to themselves.

A narrative involving the tragedy of interior self-delusion is certainly a good idea for our uncertain times. But the more I think about this movie, the more I realize just how little time the filmmakers devoted to working out their story.

Special (2006) – Review

05/19/2010
SANDY HOFFMAN

‘what good will it be for a man to gain the whole world–yet forfeits his soul?’

Special (2007) is a film by director and writers Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore. The film stars Michael Rapaport, Paul Blackthorne, Josh Peck, Robert Baker, Jack Kehler, and Alexandra Holden, in a film about a guy who thinks he has special hero powers, thanks to a experimental anti-depressive drug.

I can remember hearing a song by the group ”Third Eye Blind” called Semi-charmed life. Later, after blasting the song on my iPod at work–learned that the song referenced taking ‘mood enhancements’ i.e drugs. “Wanting something else–to get through life.” No wonder the song made such and impression on me –(do doo do doo do do do) sorry.

What if–there was actually something–something to make you feel better than you are now–as if you are invincible–the ability to face the world without a worry (psst. I know that there are things akin to this description, I’m writing a review here, so work with me 😉) Feel like–like living is actually worth it. Case in point, meet Les (Michael Rapaport) who asked himself the exact same thing.

Les is basically a loner, except for his two friends, who owned a comic book store. Les has a terrible job as a meter maid and a boss who did not respect him. Overall–no one really respected Les and he did not blame them. He did not respect himself. Well, that was until a new pharmaceutical company came to town offering him a ray of sunshine. Clinical pharmaceutical trials. Promising Les that the antidepressant sepcioprin hydrochloride would make life a bit more tolerable for him.

Sign me up!

The antidepressant would be just the thing he needed–

an answer to his troubles…

an it would seem that the pill worked wonders for Les.

—but there are those side effects—

‘Special’ a movie for most of us. I mean, aren’t we all looking for that ‘miracle’ pill that would make our lives seem a bit easier?

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NEWS

SPECIAL at 23rd AMSTERDAM FANTASTIC FILM FESTIVAL!

Taking place: April 18 - 25, 2007

SPECIAL at 25th BRUSSELS INT'L FESTIVAL OF FANTASTIC FILM!

Screening Times: Friday, 06 Apr 2007, 16:00 at Tour & Taxis (Main)

SPECIAL at 2007 SACRAMENTO FILM FESTIVAL!

Screening Time: Saturday, March 31, 2007  at 8:45 PM - Crest Theatre

SPECIAL wins BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE FILM at WT Os Int'l Film Festival in Norway!

SPECIAL at 2006 AFI FILM FESTIVAL!

Screening day & times:

Weds, November 8, 2006 at 10pm  - Archlight Cinema #14

Thurs, November 9, 2006 at 2pm  - Archlight Cinema #10

SPECIAL 2006 AFM Screenings

Wednesday, Nov. 1st - 3:00 PM - Fairmont #1
Monday, Nov. 6th - 3:00 PM - Fairmont #3

U.K. THEATRICAL PREMIERE OF SPECIAL ! 

NOVEMBER 17, 2006

See the UK movie trailer here:!

Our SPECIAL thanks to our friends at REVOLVER ENTERTAINMENT.

FABRICATION FILMS TO DISTRIBUTE SPECIAL WORLDWIDE!

USA LIMITED PLATFORM THEATRICAL RELEASE - SPRING 2007

Look for it in a city near you!

SpecialTheMovie.com