Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Written by Joe the Revelator
Amidst a rash of realistic superhero movies like Kick-Ass and Super, and stories about real caped crusaders like The Amazing Adventures of Phoenix Jones by Jon Ronson and Confessions of a Superhero, I found yet another "real" hero movie. Although this one, an independent film starring Michael Rapaport, comes closer to what I believe the path to preternatural power would be like.
All the aforementioned superhero stories have a common thread. A normal, everyday man (or boy) reads too many comics and straps on a cape, and is consequently given a hard slap in the face by reality. Because at the core of being a true crime fighter is violence, which can come as a brutal shock to the young lad, usually by having the kibbles kicked out of him by some big bad thugs.
Les, the hero in Special, receives this lesson again and again. He gets punched and kicked, chased, falls off buildings, gets beaten with a board, and is run over by a car multiple times. By the end of the movie he's so broken and bloody that it seems the only thing holding him up is his home-made armor; a white spray-painted jumper with skate pads. And this, the fact that one man can take the beating of a lifetime, seems to be the lesson of the movie.
Power in a pill
We're given to believe that Special (Rx) is an anti-depressant in its clinical trial phase. Les is an anxious meter-maid who is willing to try anything to end his ongoing slump. He's so anxious, in fact, that he asks the doctor if he can start taking the new medication right away, in the office. He begins discovering his "powers" almost immediately.
His first real test comes in the form of a supermarket mugger, trying to hold up the checkout girl who he's been pining over from the start. Tackling the bandit gives Les his first taste of justice. From there it's a rampage of tackling criminals, often using his telepathy to discern good people from bad, until he makes the evening news in a montage of tacklings caught on security camera. It's this unfortunate exposure that alerts the investors of Special (Rx) to the potential side-effects of the drug, and to Les and his identity.
Flying Vs. Carpool
During a protracted car-ride scene, the hero laments that whenever you're trying to avoid crime it seems to find you. But if you go looking for it, criminality is nowhere in sight. For me, this scene sums up the movie. It felt like most of Special was waiting for something to happen; in the office, during car-rides, walking the streets, usually followed by abrupt fits of violence with no rewarding outcome.
But despite the seeming pointlessness of Special, it had me hooked from beginning to end. The long lulls and mundane plodding helped build a level of suspense, culminating to the one-sided beatdown.