A Scanner Darkly (2006)

One of the trippiest movies, about tripping.

Working as an undercover cop in a world where almost everyone is addicted to Substance D — a drug that produces split personalities in its users — Fred Arctor (Keanu Reeves) sets up an elaborate sting to nab a notorious drug runner named Bob. Little does Fred know that “Bob” is his alter ego.

This is not the most easily accessible material I have seen on screen, sometimes there are moments, where we don’t know what the hell is going on, and hell I don’t think the characters do as well, but that’s the whole point of it.

Drugs create illusions in your mind, and it gets so deep into your mind, that soon your just all caught up in it, and you don’t know what’s real, or fiction. This film does a great job of showing how that can affect you, as well as the others around you. You create these ideas in your head, and then you just get paranoid all around, and you can’t control it, cause it has taken over your mind, body, and soul. Then you, know there’s no actual way of turning back.

People criticize director Richard Linklater, cause they say he wasn’t the best suit for this material, but in all honesty, I think he does the best job of keeping this stuff alive. The crazy-ass visuals, may seem like a gimmick at first, but then you start to notice it actually goes along with the film, because it shows you how consumed these people are with the drugs, and the visuals it creates in your mind. I also really did like the script and thought as weird, crazy, and insane as they were, all of them were interesting. You hear these people talk about the craziest crap ever, and you don’t know whether to laugh, or be sad that some people are this far into drugs that they would talk like this, but in reality these are how people talk, especially when they are totally under the influence.

The problem with this film was that i felt the constant political messages, got way too out of hand, especially by that lackluster ending. I wish more of the message was pointed at the drugs, instead of crappy political satire that doesn’t work. There is scene where a former cop harangues people in a street about the war on drugs being itself the real problem. I honestly believe that one in 3 criminal justice professionals already recognize this truth. Drug abuse is a public health issue and should be taken out of criminal justice. That will not happen for the simple reason that market for selling and fighting drugs are both too profitable.

Keanu Reeves is good in this lead role. He doesn’t get too Johnny Utah-like for me, yet he doesn’t get too Neo-y for me either, he’s just the dude that the film revolves around. Winona Ryder surprisingly brings a lot to her role, providing enough details of cool, sexiness, and charm, that had us loving her in the beginning. Woody Harrelson is also in this, playing himself I would presume, basically the guy is always high. But the best here is Robert Downey Jr., who’s character is so taken back by the drugs, that the wildest things, come out of his mind, but he does it so well, that it’s actually believable to the fact that he’s just too real to be true.

Consensus: A Scanner Darkly may rely too much on one message, when it should have on another, but the direction is solid, with the trippy visuals, actually doing a lot for the story, as well as the wonderful acting from the cast.



  1. I’ll forgive the blatant plug on my post since this is a great review 😛
    An interesting movie. I really need to see it again as I can’t remember much. The visuals really are cool though. And Downey is brilliant as usual.

  2. This is from one of my favorite Philip K. Dick books and it’s a fairly faithful adaptation. The visuals add so much to the film. I wasn’t too impressed with them at first, but if you think about watching a lot of the scenes as just normal filmed images, it becomes apparent how needed the added element of the animation is. I would love to see more Philip K. Dick adaptations be faithful like this one, instead of actioning-up everything like they did in Paycheck.

  3. I’m a big fan of this movie, and your review reminds me of why I liked it and that I should re-watch it soon. I also agree that Robert Downey Jr. is a standout here, but then again he usually is in most everything he’s in. Nice review!

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