Movie Review
A Scanner Darkly
A Scanner Darkly poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published February 27, 2006
US Release: July 7, 2006

Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Keanu Reeves , Woody Harrelson , Winona Ryder , Robert Downey Jr.

R
Running Time: 100 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $5,501,616
B-
9 of 177
The result is fascinating and is a bit of a visceral experience; it?s not as complex as Waking Life, but is worth it for fans of the cast and director.
A Scanner Darkly is a film noir picture by Richard Linklater, who was behind Waking Life (B), which this film is modeled after, visually. A Scanner Darkly is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick about a drug called Substance D and its devastating effects, and his stories also inspired Minority Report (B) and Blade Runner (C+). Linklater applied the same technicality as he used with Waking Life in that he shot the film in live-action and animated every scene to achieve a unique sense of noir. The result is fascinating and is a bit of a visceral experience; it?s not as complex as Waking Life, but is worth it for fans of the cast and director. If you aren?t accustomed to Philip K. Dick?s stories or Linklater?s signature style (his films tend to be dialogue-driven and are strange), Scanner Darkly is probably not for you, which is why I have left out plot details.

A Scanner Darkly is mostly Robert Downey Jr.?s show even though Keanu Reeves was given top billing, and he gives a fun, quirky performance, even though he is under-used; his wacky energy will likely leave fans desiring more. It also seems that Linklater is trying to resurrect Rory Cochrane?s onscreen persona from Dazed and Confused with the casting of Woody Harrelson, who plays a similarly off-the-wall slacker (Harrelson, too, is under-used). Cochrane is also in the film (playing a paranoid loser) but his character has minimal dialogue. Winona Ryder completes the package as the straight woman (to the film?s offbeat characters), and she gives one of the better performances of her career.

Had A Scanner Darkly just been filmed in live-action, it wouldn?t have the other-worldly effect that makes it special. Part of the joy of watching the film comes from being engulfed in its mysterious atmosphere, especially with the subtle musical score that wreaks of paranoid thoughts; the tone does wonders in making its themes seep under your skin. The film works terrifically on a technical level, but there?s the sense that Linklater could be giving these actors more to do. Still, the casting is perfect for these burnout roles, and the actors deliver. Obviously, Scanner is not for everyone, and will draw like-it or hate-it reactions with its unusual premise and execution. The film is mostly recommended to film buffs and those looking for something a little different.
Lee's Grade: B-
Ranked #9 of 177 between Little Miss Sunshine (#8) and Hard Candy (#10) for 2006 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 2996 graded movies
A0.4%
B29.8%
C61.7%
D8.1%
F0.0%
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