Scanner Darkly

Scanner Darkly

4.6 9
Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson


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The war on drugs has been lost, and when a reluctant undercover cop is ordered to spy on those he is closest to, the toll that the mission takes on his sanity is too great to comprehend in director Richard Linklater's rotoscoped take on Philip K. Dick's classic novel. With stratospheric concern over national security promptingSee more details below


The war on drugs has been lost, and when a reluctant undercover cop is ordered to spy on those he is closest to, the toll that the mission takes on his sanity is too great to comprehend in director Richard Linklater's rotoscoped take on Philip K. Dick's classic novel. With stratospheric concern over national security prompting paranoid government officials to begin spying on citizens, trust is a luxury and everyone is a suspected criminal until proven otherwise. Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is a narcotics officer who is issued an order to spy on his friends and report back to headquarters. In addition to being a cop, though, Arctor is also an addict. His drug of choice is a ubiquitous street drug called Substance D, a drug known well for producing split personalities in its users.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Some films have cult status written all over them. Shot in live action with an A-list cast and then transferred into an animated feature via the technically complex “rotoscope” process, this scrupulously faithful adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel is a dazzling, if disturbing, tour de force. Director Richard Linklater, employing the same animation technique he first used in 2001’s Waking Life, has captured the essence of Dick’s dystopian tale and its obsession with identity crises, drug-fed paranoia, and government surveillance on an Orwellian scale. Set in an Orange County suburb in the near future, A Scanner Darkly posits the emergence of a highly addictive drug known as Substance D (the “D” stands for “dumbness, despair, desertion, and death”). Seemingly innocuous homeowner Robert Arctor (Keanu Reeves), the amiable host to hangers-on Jim Barris (Robert Downey Jr.) and Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson), works as an undercover narcotics agent but has become addicted himself. While romancing drug dealer Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder) in an attempt to learn her supplier’s identity, Arctor is ordered to run surveillance on his own home: One of his guests is suspected of being Donna’s top customer. Linklater’s unusually dense screenplay and fleet narrative style never coddle the viewer -- repeated screenings gradually reveal even deeper layers to this dark, innovative sci-fi thriller.
All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
Richard Linklater's decision to film his adaptation of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly in an animated style similar to his earlier film Waking Life exemplifies everything good about him as a filmmaker. By forcing viewers to constantly assess what and who they are looking at, Linklater is able to underscore the paranoid and Big Brother surveillance aspects of the story -- elements further enhanced when one recalls this film hit theaters around the time that surveillance tactics were a hotly contested political issue. Linklater does a fine job of opening up these topics for examination, and he even allows his audience to laugh at the same time. The drugged-out ramblings and misadventures of characters played by Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, and Rory Cochrane offer comic relief so humorous that it occasionally overwhelms the more serious aspects of the film. One gets the feeling that if Linklater ever wanted to have a giant box-office success he could make a great stoner comedy with the three of them. As funny and interesting as the entire film is, it falls short of entering the pantheon of great Linklater films mostly because the style of the film makes it hard to think of the characters in the film as real people. The audience will find it interesting when Keanu Reeves' undercover drug officer Bob Arctor slowly begins to lose himself in a haze of addiction, paranoia, and psychosis, but there is no sense of real human tragedy or loss. This lack of catharsis is underscored when, for the movie's end, Linklater appropriates Dick's personal note from the book where Dick dedicates it to a list of friends and acquaintances who have suffered from drug abuse. That simple list of names and afflictions carries more emotional weight than the film. Even if it is too cerebral by a hair, Linklater's film asks intelligent questions about the many ways drugs and drug policy affect society and individuals. By capturing the paranoia of that world, and presenting it in a style that creates a unique viewing experience, A Scanner Darkly stands as one of the very best Philip K. Dick adaptations.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Commentary by Keanu Reeves, writer/director Richard Linklater, producer Tommy Pallotta, author Jonathan Lethem and Philip K. Dick's daughter Isa Dick Hackett; The weight of the line: animation tales; Theatrical trailer

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Keanu Reeves Bob Arctor
Robert Downey James 'Jim' Barris
Woody Harrelson Ernie Luckman
Winona Ryder Donna Hawthorn
Rory Cochrane Charles Freck
Mitch Baker Brown Bear Lodge Host
Sean Allen Additional Fred Scramble Suit Voice
Cliff Haby Voice From Headquarters
Steven Chester Prince Cop
Natasha Valdez Waitress
Mark Turner Additional Hank Scramble Suit Voice
Chamblee Ferguson Medical Deputy 2
Angela Rawna Medical Deputy 1
Eliza Stevens Arctor's Daughter
Sarah Menchaca Arctor's Daughter
Melody Chase Arctor's Wife
Leif Anders Freck Suicide Narrator
Turk Pipkin Creature
Alexander Jones Street Prophet
Alex Jones Street Prophet
Lisa Marie Newmyer Connie
Wilbur Penn Medical Officer
Ken Webster Medical Officer
Hugo Perez New Path Staff Member
Dameon Clarke Mike
Christopher Ryan New Path Residents
Leila Plummer New Path Resident
Jackson Douglas New Path Farm Manager
Marco Perella Donald

Technical Credits
Richard Linklater Director,Screenwriter
Sandra Adair Editor
Paul Adam Animator
Paul Ahern Animator
Ethan Andrus Sound/Sound Designer
Kevin Ang Animator
Ben Bays Animator
John Bruch Animator
John Buckley Animator
Jason Chalker Animator
Denise Chamian Casting
George Clooney Executive Producer
Ben Cosgrove Executive Producer
Melita Curphy Animator
Bruce Curtis Production Designer
Matt Drake Animator
Peat Duggins Animator
Patty Duke Animator
Benny Dunn Animator
Rahab El Ewaly Animator
Erin Ferguson Co-producer
John Ferguson Executive Producer
Michael P. Garza Animator
Greg Geisler Animator
Justin Goldwater Animator
Sara Greene Associate Producer
Zach Hall Animator
Justin Hennard Sound/Sound Designer
Ryan Hennessee Animator
Dean Hsieh Animator
Sherard Jackson Animator
Kennon James Animator
Jennifer Fox Executive Producer
Nathan Jensen Animator
Shane F. Kelly Cinematographer
Vivian P. Le Animator
Amalia Litsa Animator
David Marquez Animator
Darylin Nagy Makeup
Tom Pallotta Producer
Vince Palmo Asst. Director
John Paul Animator
Kevin Peake Animator
Glenn Perkins Animator
Kari Perkins Costumes/Costume Designer
Nic Ratner Musical Direction/Supervision
Thomas P. Reidy Animator
Graham Reynolds Score Composer
Joseph Riley Animator
Susan Sabiston Animator
Aaron Sacco Animator
F. Joseph Santori Animator
Leah Sharpe Animator
Dan Shuta Animator
John Sloss Executive Producer
Jonah Smith Producer
Steven Soderbergh Executive Producer
Craig Matthew Staggs Animator
Erwin Stoff Producer
Jason Stout Animator
J. Michael Stovall Animator
Alicia Traveria Animator
Michael Veroni Animator
Anne Walker-McBay Producer
Ralph Watson Camera Operator
Palmer West Producer
Lorin Wood Animator
Michael Wood Animator

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