tek's rating:

A Scanner Darkly (R)
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This is based on a book by Philip K. Dick, which I haven't read. The movie is sort of animated; it's done with rotoscoping, which basically means the animators traced over live-action film. (The actual ratio of how real versus how animated it looks seems to occasionally shift.) Anyway, it gives it a very odd look, which I think fits the nature of the story, which is very trippy. Honestly, most of the time I had very little idea of what was actually going on, which is kind of the point.

It's set in the near future. There's like this cop named Fred (Keanu Reeves), and all the cops seem to wear these "scramble suits" which alter their voices and constantly shift between like a million different fractions of the appearances of different men, women, and children, so that no one can tell what the person wearing the suit actually looks or sounds like. Fred occasionally reports to another cop in a scramble suit, named Hank. Fred's current assignment is basically to spy on an alleged dealer of the drug "Substance D," which apparently 20% of the population is now addicted to, though no one knows who actually makes the drug. The alleged drug dealer, who the cops hope will lead them to someone higher up the chain, is named Bob Arctor... but we get to see that Fred is actually Bob. Bob is not only a dealer of substance D (though I don't think we ever actually see him dealing), he's also an addict. And he lives with a couple of other addicts, James Barris (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson). Those two are cleary nuts (because the drug has addled their brains), but quite amusing. We also occasionally see a friend of theirs, another addict named Charles Freck, whose mind seems even further deteriorated than the others'. And someone named Donna Hawthrone (Winona Ryder), who supplies Bob with D. I think she's also vaguely his girlfriend, though she has an aversion to touch, so they don't really do anything. I'm not sure if she does D at all, but supposedly she's addicted to cocaine. Also I need to mention that there's like a treatment program for D addicts, called New Path. It's like a rehab center, but it may or may not have sinister overtones, like "Big Brother" or something. Or... well, I had a suspicion early on...

Anyways, um... the cops seem to be aware that Fred is either Bob or one of the people in Bob's circle of friends, but they don't seem to know exactly who. And they have monitoring devices installed in Bob's house, which Fred has to view footage from, for his job. And Barris is trying to provide information against Bob to the cops, for his own addled reasons. And... Fred/Bob's brain continues to deteriorate, so that he doesn't always seem to know who he actually is, but also I'm never quite certain who he thinks he is at any given moment. For that matter, I'm never quite certain which identity is the real one, who's scamming who, or whether there's some other identity entirely. (We did at one point see a flashback to before Bob became an addict, but I don't know if that was real, and if so, whether it was Bob or Fred or what.) And... gah, it's just all so confusing and mind-bending, and in the end, there's another twist that actually makes everything seem to make some kind of sense. Maybe. But it's still weird. You know... I refuse to allow myself to make any assumptions about any aspect of this movie, and yet I'm still paranoid that my assumptions might be wrong.

So, like I said, it's trippy. And amusing. And weird. And kind of brilliant. And I have no desire to ever watch it again.

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