There’s a pantheon of cinema that is fixated on the comic store as a metaphorical character - The Lost Boys, True Romance and the movies of Kevin Smith spring to mind. The comic book store is the centre of their protagonist’s world, the fantastical realm they inhabit. Special wears this concept on its skin-tight lycra sleeve. Michael Rappaport (Hitch, video game Comic Book Villains) gives a tour de force performance as Les, a traffic cop who signs up for a medical experiment and comes out believing he’s a superhero. This, though, is no Mystery Men type pastiche, the aesthetic and mood created by co-directors Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore is more akin to Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Das Experiment than Hollywood superhero movies. The director’s toy with us by concealing like a superhero’s real life alter ego whether Les actually has superpowers or is quite simply delusional. All Les’ decisions, such as designing a costume when he realises that he can only fight crime as a vigilante, are based on the logic of superheroes from the 50s and 60s golden age, but, alas, he lives in an all too modern world.
Special is flawed, mainly because the supporting cast are not given sufficient screen time to stoke interest, yet it’s undoubtedly the most intriguing dissection on superhero mythology since M Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable.
Cineworld Renfrew Street, Glasgow from Fri 17 Nov.