A Scanner Darkly



By Steve Allen

The movie that I watched over the last few days that really took a hold of my attention was “A Scanner Darkly” directed by Richard Linklater, based on an astonishingly good novel by Phillip K. Dick, also known for “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” (Bladerunner) , “Pay check”, movie adaptation  with Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman,  “Total Recall” and “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise.

Written in the 60’s , set in the 90’s, this movie takes us to a suburban California group of characters, consumed by a drug called “substance D”, know to them as ‘Death’. It is a super-brain damaging , massively addictive drug, derived from a little blue flower , the current epidemic  of society.

An undercover cop, named “Fred” whose cover is “Bob Arctor”, played by Keannu Reeves,  is introduced to us through a seminar, he is an undercover operative, who works at a place requiring shape-shifting ‘Scramble Suits’ to ensure anonymity .  He is joined by Donna Hawthorne (played by Wynona Ryder), who is his “substance D” dealer. James  Barris (played by a perfectly crazy Robert Downey Jr), Ernie Luckman ( also totally thwacked played by Woody Harrelson) and  Charles Freck ( played by Rory Cochrane). And finally his chief “Hank” voiced by Mark turner, played by Wynona Ryder.

The movie is about the cop, Fred, who is working undercover to stop the spread of “substance D”, and becomes addicted to it. The drug slowly makes him go mad, as he spirals into madness the world closes in around him and he finds himself at a rehab facility. The facility turns out to be the “farm”, a harvesting operation of little blue flowers. And the lead character is revealed as a pawn in the FBI’s scheme to infiltrate the grow operation, fronted by “A New Hope” the corporation behind the treatment facilities.


This movie was very good, the psychological warfare that the characters have upon one another, and the way the effects of the drug have made them go crazy is just amazing acting. This is a film that everyone who has ever claimed to appreciate film should see twice. Every actor is completely in their zone. The performance of Robert Downey Jr. is just staggering with a neurosis that he injects into his character that only he could provide, and Woody, Probably one of the best performances of his career, and so true to how every one would think he is like in person, if he was a bit crazier. The way each scene when under the influence of the ‘d” evolves off of each other into a crescendo makes one really get the impression of the genius that is Phillip K. Dick. I must rate this movie a solid 5/5.


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