(Keanu voice) Whoa.
Trippy. That's the only true way to describe A Scanner Darkly. Crazy sci-fi plot set in the not-too-distant future, written by Phillip K. Dick, and starring Keanu Reeves? You know this one's gonna be weird.
The most notable aspect of this movie was the stylistic approach that director Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Dazed and Confused) took with it. The film is definitely groundbreaking with regards to it's visual look. It's just like those Charles Schwab commercials you see on TV all the time...but 2 hours long. Personally, I think it looks really slick.
Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey, Jr. (the future Iron Man in the upcoming film), and Winona Ryder star alongside the greatest actor of the modern era: Keanu Reeves. I was incredibly amused by Harrelson's character, a drugged-out wacko who is constantly paranoid. Winona was lookin' pretty decent, but her acting (she was a drug supplier in the film) was sub-par. I didn't believe a word she said. She brought no passion to the movie whatsoever. Come on, Winona: Go Big or Go Home! Robert Downey, Jr. (who I used to hate before I saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) also turned in an average performance as Keanu's friend and roommate. Keanu himself was pretty mediocre, as well. There's no use denying it: I'm a big supporter of that man and nearly everything he does (with the exception of those romantic comedies). I appreciate what he was trying to do here, supporting an innovative film style and sacrificing the big bucks that he could normally demand for an independent film like this. But Keanu: step it up a little, Ace. I've come to expect so much out of you after Point Break that it's hard for you to keep delivering every time. (A small aside: I find it interesting that they cast Downey Jr. and Harrelson in this movie because they both have been plagued by drug problems throughout their careers and they play addicts in the movie. Coincidence? Definitely not.)
This movie was little more than a drugged-out sequence of events following an undercover agent trying to bring down dealers of a drug that has taken over the American people, known as Substance D. There were hallucinations left and right, along with vague attempts to explain what was going on ("The two sides of my brain are...competing?"). Keanu spends most of his on screen time in a shimmering full body suit that continuously changed his outward appearance, which says something about where our society is heading in the future with the whole technological movement toward social connectivity. There were also themes reminiscent of the Red Scare of the 50's in this movie; authority figures asking citizens to report people using Substance D and asking people to rat on their neighbors. This is probably due to the fact that the book was written in 1977, but those themes were still prominent in American culture back in those days. Parallels can be drawn to the Patriot Act in effect today, with some sort of all-seeing governmental agency spying on us all the time as the cause for paranoia. Anyway, the whole thing is about trying to take down the drug dealers who are supplying Substance D to the public. If you can manage to stay awake long enough to try to decipher what's going on, the movie is pretty predictable. If not, then you'll be just slightly more confused than someone who intently watched the film in its entirety.
Phillip K. Dick was a pretty messed up dude. If you're a fan of his stories, this may come as some sort of blasphemy, but you can't deny that he had major psychological problems. Some of his most famous works have been adapted for the big screen and include: Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, and the upcoming Nick Cage/Jessica Biel thriller Next. I think I liked two out of four of those, and Next looks horrendous, so I'll give the guy a solid "meh" overall.
If you're feeling like you need to solve a mystery and you don't want too difficult of a challenge, then check out A Scanner Darkly. The visual feel is cool and everything, but you get the same thing from those commercials, and it's not nearly as trippy. I think this is one of those movies that you either really love, or you don't think it's anything special. I fall into the latter category, but that's not to say that you shouldn't watch it and make your own decisions. Until next time...