Fantasia 2020 – Special Actors review

Kazuto Osawa and Hiroki Kawano in Special Actors

Kazuto (Kazuto Osawa) is a wannabe actor who is hampered by the fact that his nervous disposition causes him to faint dead away at the first sign of conflict. He dreams of being as brave and strong as his childhood superhero Rescue Man. After being humiliated in an acting audition, a chance encounter brings his estranged brother Hiroki (Hiroki Kawano) into his life. His brother works for a unique acting agency called Special Actors. Need some actors to sit in the audience and laugh hysterically at your new movie release so it looks much better than it is? Need someone to test your waiting staff’s prowess with tough customers? Want someone to pretend to be a mugger so you can heroically fight them off and impress your girlfriend? Special Actors acting agency is the agency for you.  But the crew’s skills are seriously tested when Miyu (Yumi Ogawa) hires the Special Actors agency to help her save her sister from giving away the family inn to a strange religious cult whose symbol is a rice ball and whose leader is a mute teenage messiah. They are, of course, a group of charlatans. So it’s grifters versus grifters but who will win out?

Writer/director Shinichiro Ueda burst onto the scene with his feature debut One Cut of the Dead – a hysterically funny and blisteringly original take on zombie movies. Any follow up was never going to live up to such an audacious debut and Special Actors doesn’t. But my god is it adorable. Special Actors is a ridiculously charming movie – the sort of film that has you beaming from ear to ear. 

Kazuto is a tricky protagonist to like because he is so wet but the team at the acting agency are very entertaining. I loved the fake medium and was completely entranced by the wildly violent female member of the Special Actors crew who fights her way out of any situation no matter how mundane. The movie is more gently wacky than laugh out loud funny and its budgetary limitations are clear. You will probably guess the way the plot is going (a shameless lift from a Fincher movie) but honestly, none of that really matters. In these trying times, we all need entertainment that is going to put a smile on our faces and a spring in our step and Special Actors is that movie. Special Actors is an endearingly earnest, slight but hugely enjoyable feel-good comedy that will leave you grinning for hours after you’ve watched it. 

3.5 stars out of 5 

Special Actors had its Canadian premiere at Fantasia Fest 2020