New from The Movie Snob
A Scanner Darkly (B-). First, a word about Philip K. Dick, whose novel is the basis for the movie. Several of his works have inspired movies, most famously Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report. If you like science-fiction, especially dystopian science fiction, you should give Dick a try. I read a few of his books as a kid, and I generally enjoyed them. Be warned that they are very weird, like Ubik, a story about a gang of psychics whose leader gets killed—and then starts sending them mysterious messages from beyond the grave.
Anyway, Scanner is considered one of Dick’s best books, but I remember trying to read it, getting confused, and eventually giving up. The movie is much more straightforward than I remember the book being. Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix Reloaded) is a dopehead hooked on the horrifically addictive “Substance D,” along with 20% of the population of America. But he is also “Fred,” a narcotics agent assigned to spy on Bob Arctor and his small “family” of fellow dopeheads (Woody Harrelson, Management; Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man 3; Winona Ryder, Star Trek). When he reports to work, he wears a high-tech, identity-concealing suit so effective that even his bosses don’t know his true identity (although they assume he is either Arctor or one of his cronies). Which is his real identity? Substance D is so powerful and destructive that even he isn’t sure any more. The movie can be taken as a warning against the danger the “war on drugs” poses to our civil liberties, but its unflinching look at the pathetic, brain-damaged drug users seems to justify even harsh measures intended to stem the tide.