31st Aug2020

Fantasia 2020: ‘Special Actors’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Kazuto Osawa, Hiroki Kono, Takuya Fuji, Ayu Kitaura | Written and Directed by Shinichiro Ueda

One Cut of the Dead was quite rightly celebrated for rejuvenating the zombie sub genre. It was original, funny, massively entertaining and really clever. But maybe more than all that, it had heart and it made you smile from ear to ear. So I could not wait to watch whatever Shin’ichiro Ueda made after that, and Special Actors is his latest offering.

Without the horror setting, could the director catch that lightening in a bottle again. Special Actors does have some similarities with One Cut of the Dead. But it is more to do with the style of comedy and tone than anything else (although there is one scene that I will get to later). But it also goes down those strange meta-routes. That Japanese humour is different from American or British humour, so if you haven’t watched any Japanese films before, it make take a little getting used to it.

Special Actors, is thankfully with that title, full of great performances. None any better than Kazuto Osawa. Not the usual kind of lead in a movie. A wannabe actor who faints at any sign of stress and also has an obsession with the superhero show ‘Rescuman’. He joins an acting agency called ‘Special Actors’ who act in real-life situation – laugh at the opening of a new movie, attend a wedding and the latest case involves him and other actors infiltrating a cult to try to save their clients sister. And from that comes a crazy script that leads to an even crazier end to the situation.

Like One Cut of the Dead before it, it is best to know very little about the movie going into. The basic synopsis is all you really need to know (no spoilers here). But there are plenty of things I can say. Like his previous work the director has created something that will make you smile so much that your face might ache by the end of the movie. It is not always laugh out loud moments – although there are a few of them – but it’s more that heart-warming feeling that he knows how to create better than maybe anyone else.

The friendships and relationships between the characters feel very real. There’s such great chemistry between the actors that you’ll believe that they have been friends forever. You absolutely feel every emotion with them.

One of the final scenes plays out something like a mix of the superhero show our lead character loves and One Cut of the Dead. Part Carrie, part Star Wars, it’s comedically gory, perfectly shot and acted. It’s what the whole movie has been building to and it works superbly. And just when you think it has all ended, it adds something else brilliant.

Shin’ichiro Ueda is a special director and this, like One Cut of the Dead, is a special film. It’s full of warmth and happiness that you can’t help but smile at. At this time more than ever do we need directors and movies like this. Special Actors is the most heart-warming and joyful movie of 2020.

**** 4/5

Special Actors screens as part of this years Fantasia Festival, which takes place Aug 20th – Sept 2nd 2020.

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