By David K. Ginn

First, I should mention that the ComicCon info guide was very misleading, if not a dirty liar.  The guide told all ComicCon attendees that they would be getting a sneak peek at the movie Superhero, and then described the plot. Excited about seeing a sneak peek of a new indie movie about superheroes, my fellow writer and I, games columnist Joe Donato, filed into the Javits Theater with eager anticipation.

The next day, we found out the movie was released in the UK in 2006 and the in US in 2007.  Also, the name of the movie was Special, not Superhero.  If we hadn’t missed the first three minutes of the movie, I suppose we would have found that out earlier.  Well, the movie was incredible.

The story begins when mild-mannered meter maid, Les (Michael Rapaport, True Romance, Boston Public), stuck with no future and a life of perpetual worthlessness, takes part in a drug experiment that aims to eliminate self-doubt.  This results in Les believing that he has superpowers, and must use them in order to help people.

The further down the rabbit hole he goes, the more secure the delusion becomes, so that even the protests of Dr. Dobson (Jack Kehler), the experiment administer, only persuades Les to take even more of the drug.  As he slowly develops an understanding of the true, sad nature of superheroes, he enlists the help of his stoner friends (Josh Peck and Robert Baker), who own a local comic shop.

When the CEOs of the drug company, led by the vile Jonas Exiler (Paul Blackthorne, 24, The Dresden Files), try to silence Les, he becomes acquainted with what he can only explain as real-life supervillains.  The resulting battle becomes steadily more dramatic, as Les’ battle is no longer about good vs. evil, but the strength of an average guy to overcome a brutal world that tries to keep him down.

Rapaport, a veteran indie character actor, proves that he can handle the spotlight with what is easily an Oscar-worthy performance.  No one else could have blended the right amount of comedy with touching, sometimes heart-breaking drama, while still remaining a convincing “average guy.”  He seamlessly follows the changing moods and directions of the film, proving he can be offbeat, hilarious, empathetic and convincingly dramatic.

Right behind Rapaport is Blackthorne, who plays his villainous role both up and down as needed, making both interpretations more realistic and humanizing than almost any CEO-type antagonist in film history.  Each extreme measure is met with a gasp from the audience, rather than a boo; there is not much more that an antagonist can ask for from his audience.

Writer/directors Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore, in their directorial debut, bring heart to a project that could have easily been slapstick and silly.  The perfect pacing demonstrates a deep connection with the film’s content, and the switches from hilarious physical comedy to brutal, gritty violence are unmatched by all but the work of the Coen brothers.

Overall, the movie delivers where you think it will, then hits you where you don’t expect it.  It’s truly a film for comic-goers, but moreover, it’s a film for anyone who appreciates an all-around cinematic experience.  Rife with comedy, drama, touching themes and inspiring performances, Special is one of the best movies to come out in years.

Furthermore, to ComicCon’s credit, being able to see the movie was indeed a treat, even if it wasn’t a “sneak peek.”  It’s a hard to find release, especially with the continued perseverance of region restrictions, but that doesn’t mean finding a non-bootleg American DVD is impossible.  E-mail if you want updates on our quest to find a release of this movie.  The quest will ultimately end with The Press screening the movie here, one way or another.

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