The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS FILM - Don­ald Clarke

SPE­CIAL ★★★ Di­rected by Hal Haberman and Jeremy Pass­more. Star­ring Michael Ra­pa­port, Paul Black­thorne, Josh Peck, Robert Baker, Jack Kehler Club, IFI, Dublin, 81 min

OVER­STRETCHED, even at a brief 81 min­utes, Spe­cial feels like a clever, low-bud­get ex­er­cise, rather than a fully grown fea­ture film. But it’s an en­gag­ing, funny busi­ness fea­tur­ing a de­cent per­for­mance from Michael Ra­pa­port and a script packed with mis­chie­vously en­joy­able con­spir­acy the­o­ries.

Ra­pa­port plays a traf­fic war­den and comic en­thu­si­ast who, suf­fer­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal side ef­fects dur­ing a drugs trial, be­lieves him­self to be in pos­ses­sion of su­per-pow­ers. Ini­tially we are tempted to share his delu­sions as he le­vi­tates be­fore us and ap­pears to read the minds of his friends and col­leagues. Then, in a trou­bling and amus­ing scene, we watch him risk con­cus­sion as he runs into – not, as he hopes, through – a stub­bornly un­yield­ing brick wall.

In one re­spect, his fan­tasies ac­ci­den­tally lead him in the cor­rect di­rec­tion: men in dark suits, wor­ried rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the drug com­pany, not aliens, are in­deed try­ing to run him to ground. Will they get to him be­fore his mind caves in com­pletely?

In truth, Hal Haberman and Jeremy Pass­more, the de­but­ing direc­tors, ex­haust the po­ten­tial of their high con­cept within 40 min­utes. Com­pare the bril­liant work Shane Car­ruth did in his even cheaper, but con­sid­er­ably more am­bi­tious time-travel gem Primer.

The sec­ond half of Spe­cial echoes to the des­per­ate thrash­ing around of a nar­ra­tive trou­blingly un­sure what to do with it­self. Ra­pa­port’s wide-eyed in­gen­u­ous­ness just about keeps the movie alive, but it’s hard to es­cape the no­tion that the film might have worked bet­ter as a short.

Speak­ing of shorts, Alan Walsh’s funny Ir­ish vi­gnette What If, in which two stunt­men seek to be­come film-mak­ers, will be screened be­fore Spe­cial in the Ir­ish Film In­sti­tute. Fea­tur­ing ap­pear­ances by direc­tors John Boor­man and Jim Sheri­dan, the 26-minute pic­ture fleshes out the pro­gramme very nicely in­deed.

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