A Scanner Darkly

Meandering, But Entertaining

Main Cast: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey, Jr., Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson

Director: Richard Linklater

Plot Summary: L.A. of the future is a bit more dark and under threat from violence and crime, with the new drug called “D” leading the pack. An undercover cop tries to live and work while under the drug’s dangerous influence.

A Scanner Darkly is a drug movie shown in a clever way, using animation of real-life actors and locations, stylized and enhanced by special effects and the freedom of the medium. It is based on a story written by Philip K. Dick, a sci-fi legend known for his off-the-wall characters and frequent drug references.

Bob Arctor (Reeves) is a cop hidden under some type of chameleon suit, which displays to the world hundreds of thousands of people and features that disguise his true self. He is hooked on the powerful drug known as “D”, although it’s not real clear whether he is using the drug in his official duties, or simply became hooked. I suppose it really doesn’t matter, once you descend into those dangerous waters.

Two friends, Barris (Downey Jr.) and Luckman (Harrelson), live with him in his house, unaware that he is an undercover cop. His girlfriend Donna (Ryder) stops by occasionally, although she is opposed to touching and also goes off on trips every now and again.

The plot meanders through their lives, such as they are. It’s certainly a powerful argument against drug use, depending on how you view it. It’s dark, with flashes of humor now and again, peppered with pseudo-intellectual talk that isn’t as clever as it may seem. Bob slowly descends into drug-induced stupor and is eventually taken away. If you want something a bit more cheerful you best go somewhere else.

But I did find A Scanner Darkly entertaining, in a watching an accident sort of way. The characters are colorful and unique, and the animation is a nice way of telling the story.

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