Playing at Fantasia International Film Festival, Special Actors follows Kazuto (Kazuto Osawa), a young man who dreams of being an actor, but due to a nervous medical condition, faints whenever he’s put into high stress situations. Having recently failed an audition, losing his job, and being behind on his rent, all seems lost until he comes across his brother, Hiroki (Hiroki Kawano), who he’s not seen since their mother’s funeral several years before.
It turns out his brother has gotten into acting too, and might have the perfect place for Kazuto, an agency called Special Actors. This group gets hired to perform in the real world, posing as angry customers to test employees, pretending to be grieving friends at high profile funerals, and even helping people look tough to their dates by faking a drunken incident. Kazuto begins to find his feet with the group, but things start to become a challenge when they’re hired to help prevent a young woman giving away her family business to a cult.
This marks the third film from director Shinichiro Ueda, who shot to fame in 2017 when he made the zombie comedy film One Cut of the Dead. Made for just $25,000, the film would go on to gross more than $30.5 million worldwide, making film history by earning over a thousand times its budget. As such, there are a lot of expectations on Special Actors to do well, and to be another hit. Whilst it’s probably not going to reach the heights of Ueda’s first movie, it’s certainly still a good film.
Special Actors has a lot of charm, and the first few scenes of the film set up the tone tone nicely. It’s not a laugh a minute comedy by any means, but it never takes itself completely seriously. It likes to throw small gags into fairly straight scenes, like a cult leader with a ridiculous perm. It’s inoffensive, and wins you over quite quickly. It also feels a lot like a heist caper, with the team of actors plotting ways to take down the dastardly cult, coming up with intricate plans, and then having to deal with things on the fly as they inevitably go wrong.
There are a few twists and turns to the plot towards the end that will make you chuckle as you realise that even the audience hasn’t been let in on everything, and there’s even something that will alter your entire view of the whole movie, perhaps even prompting you to go back and watch it again with this new perspective.
Special Actors is, at its core, a film about bettering yourself, about a man fighting past his issues and his problems to try and achieve his dreams. It’s definitely a fun way to spend a couple of hours.
Special Actors played at Fantasia International Film Festival, which runs 20th August – 2nd September 2020.