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A SCANNER DARKLY

SYNOPSIS:
In the near future, America is awash with drugs, especially the deadly substance D. Undercover cop Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) - going by the name Fred - is sent to spy on his friends Jim Barris (Robert Downey jnr), Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson), Donna Hawthorn (Winona Ryder) and Freck (Rory Cochrane), as well as himself. Cops in scramble suits are unrecognizable, changing their appearance into a collage of faces every second, adding to the hazy, chaotic world where D is taken as escape, but ends up as a hellride for the mid. Arctor/Fred becomes addicted and confused as he stumbles towards a mission at a secret plantation where the flowers that produce D are grown.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The rotoscope animation treatment is ideal for this morality tale about drugs written by Philip K. Dick in the 70s after his personal journey took him from the pleasure pills to the nightmare trips that ended up for many of his friends in death or permanent disabilities.

The casting of Keanu Reeves is meant to make us empathise with his growing dilemma as his two personalities split; in some respects this works, but not enough. Robert Downey jnr is always more amusing and interesting than anyone else on screen with him, even if we are not sure what his character is supposed to be doing.

Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane add colourful support, and the film offers a never ending sequence of fascinating images as the reality of the camera is subtly altered by animation, like drugs altering our perception of reality. Tension ebbs and flows, as does the quality of the animation, sometimes strikingly realistic, sometimes like out of control water colour.

In the film's futuristic setting, authorities are spying (scanning) on citizens with technological ease, and using the information to manipulate them. But even here, the novel's dark sense of humour - driven by observation of human nature - is retained by Linklater and his cast, to lighten the darkness of the scanner somewhat.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

A SCANNER DARKLY (M)
(US, 2006)

CAST: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey jnr, Mitch Baker, Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane, Winona Ryder

PRODUCER: Tommy Pallotta, Jonah Smith, Erwin Stoff, Anne Walker-McBay, Palmer West

DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater

SCRIPT: Richard Linklater (novel Philip K. Dick)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Shane F. Kelly

EDITOR: Sandra Adair

MUSIC: Graham Reynolds

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bruce Curtis

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 30, 2006







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