Fantasia Fest 2020: Special Actors (2019) Review Spoiler Free
Directed By: Shin 'ichiro Ueda
Starring: Nozomi de Lencquesaing, Hayate Masao, Aver Hamilton Jr
One Cut of the Dead released in 2017 but showcased in America last year, was truly one of those rare special movies that refreshed and re-confirmed my love for cinema. Bold statement I know. But, its high-energy and creativity really reminded me of just how fun and magical movies can be. It's nice when even a jaded film critic like myself can discover something new that gets my black heart racing with excitement. So, needless to say I was thrilled to see that director Shin 'ichiro Ueda had a brand new film, and I actually get to see it before it makes its way to streaming platforms and VOD. The film centers around a shy young actor, but the only thing standing in his way is the fact that he faints when he's in high stress or nervous situations. After re-connecting with his older brother, he is introduced to a acting troupe. A very special acting group that apply their craft to real world applications. A woman comes in one day with a pile of money, wanting the group to pretend to join a cult in order to rescue her younger sister and their family run inn.
I wasn't sure if One Cut of the Dead was a fluke. You know, maybe it was this director's one great film before taking a nose dive into boring tired imitations. Thankfully, Special Actors confirms Shin's status as one hell of a great storyteller and filmmaker. It's hard not to draw comparisons between One Cut because both films deal with actors and improve. Yet, Special Actors breaks out of Dead's shadow and acts as its very own thing and acts as a fun companion piece or spiritual sequel to the zombie film. The set up is a classic under-dog story and the lead is likable and relatable enough to pull this off with ease. As someone who has dealt with anxiety and finding ways to cope, it's awesome to see an on screen hero dealing with the same thing. Speaking of, while the film isn't actually a super-hero movie it flirts with that genre with success and also re-enforces it with its core themes. I found myself engrossed in the well thought out and clever plot but also rooting in my seat for the main character. Shin 'ichiro Ueda really understands the hero's journey and how to perfectly sculpt an incredibly satisfying story arc. Throw in some great camera work, acting and a twisty, turny plot and you have a making of a modern cult-classic. I also love this idea of an entirely new world hiding in plain sight ala Men in Black (1997) which is played up to maximum creative effect. Amazingly it may even just narrowly edge out One Cut of the Dead, as while that movie is fantastic this features more depth both in story and substance but also you can see how the director has grown in such a short amount of time. I can honestly see this director finding a huge loyal fan base and, hell, he might even be the next Bong Joon Ho and I dont say that lightly. I highly recommend this film.
Funny and had me cheering in my seat, Special Actors is the real deal!