Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Review: A Scanner Darkly

While I'm recovering full use of my fingers, Colin Lee has kindly provided this guest column, reviewing the recently released animated adaptation by Richard Linklater of Philip K. Dick's novel, A Scanner Darkly. Thanks, Colin! And now, without further ado or typing...

I went to an arthouse theater to catch the opening week of Philip K Dick's "A Scanner Darkly," in spite of a fact that it's one of the few Dick stories I haven't read. Surprisingly for him, there wasn't much to differentiate the movie from present day. Hyperaddictive, urban drugs and home surveillance aren't unfamiliar to present day viewers. The only science fiction element was the technology of the scramble suit used in the unusual operations of the drug enforcement office.

The scramble suit also provided much of the dramatic tension. This suit, which altered light to polymorph the wearer into different appearances, was always worn at work, so undercover drug enforcements agents didn't know the real identities of their coworkers. Because of this, the main character is assigned to investigate himself after a hot tip from his friend. So the main character, played by Keanu Reeves, has to monitor hidden cameras in his own house as he goes through serious side effects and dependence on the drugs that he's been taking.

Some may decry the use of Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder, and Rory Cochrane together in any movie. I'd point out that this is firstly a drug film and who better than the star of Bill and Ted's to play a junkie detective? Robert Downey Jr. excels at playing himself as a nutsy, drugged-out conspiracy theorist. One of the funniest moments of the film happens as these crazed drug fiends debate who stole the missing gears of the 21-speed bike someone sold them that only had 7 gears in front and 3 in the back. If you liked the director's film "Dazed and Confused," you must see this!