Special Unit can best be described as a film that imagines Lethal Weapon being directed by Mel Brooks. A decade in the making, the film is one of the rare comedies that can help spread awareness by its casting actors with disabilities in those roles rather than get a big-name star who isn’t disabled and can draw in the money.
Comedian Christopher Titus makes his feature film debut as a writer-director. There’s no doubt that the film is influenced by the television pilot taped in 2016. Unfortunately, it wasn’t picked up to series. Titus leads a cast that includes David Figlioli, Debbie Lee Carrington, Michael Aronin, Tobias Forrest, Billy Gardell, Cynthia Watros, and Rachel Bradley.
Titus stars as Garrett Fowler, a detective for the Van Nuys Police Department. An undercover mission goes wrong and for his punishment, Fowler gets assigned to lead a unit of handicapped police detectives. Fowler is not pleased with this new assignment but he eventually comes around on leading this special unit.
Fowler may just be the worst possible officer that anyone would want to train under. Nobody in the right mind would. But these four detectives Alvin (Figlioli), Sophie (Carrington), Morgan (Aronin), and Mac (Forrest) put up with Fowler and for that alone, they should be commended.
Forget whether this film is a comedy or drama. Titus gave disabled actors an opportunity to take on a principal role in a feature film. How often does this happen in a feature film? It seems very rare for a principal role. A minor role, maybe. I’d be recommending people see it regardless of genre because of the opportunity that’s provided in the film.
One can make a similar argument when it comes to trans roles as they can when it comes to disabled actors. The industry is starting to change with their casting practices for trans roles but my hope is that the days of bad casting practices are over. With disabled actors getting opportunities in a film like Special Unit, it helps pave the way for more opportunities through work. How does one work at becoming better at their craft if they don’t get the opportunity? Credit to Farrelly brothers for being consistent with casting disabled actors in their films. The writer-director also provided script notes to Titus, telling him “Someone is going to get this right and I think you are close.” Eighty pages of rewriting later and Special Unit was closer to production.
For those of you in the Chicago area, Special Unit will be screening on Saturday November 11th at 7 PM at the New 400 Theater as a part of the 2017 Chicago Comedy Film Festival. For ticket information, please click here.
Special Unit arrives on iTunes and other VOD platforms on October 11, 2017.