HE’S A HIGH FLYER
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.