A Scanner Darkly

Richard Linkletter, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane, Mitch Baker

Text: RD

After School Of Rock and Bad News Bears made Linklater the coolest guy ever to sixth graders around the world, we were a little worried that the Slacker director had gone soft on us as he crept toward middle age.

A Scanner DarklyBut with A Scanner Darkly, his cool and cutting – edge animated adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, Linklater is back fanning the flames he lit with Dazed And Confused and Waking Life.

With the same rotoscoping animation techniques he used in Waking Life, Linklater explores America’s war on drugs in the not too distant future, when advances in technology and satellite surveillance have made privacy all but forgotten.

One narcotics agent (Reeves), wearing a “scramble suit” that completely changes his identity, is forced to spy on his tweaked-out drug fiend friends (Downey and Harrelson). Problem is, he’s a tweaked out drug fiend too, so his perception of reality bends and nearly breaks as he juggles dual lives.

Paranoia kicks in, and nobody, not even his doe-eyed slacker lady friend (Ryder), can be trusted. Since the characters’ identities are constantly shifting, you’re left figuring out not only who’s who but who isn’t who, and you’ll scratch your head as Linklater dilutes your sense of reality until it’s as fluid and malleable as the slippery animation on screen.

It’s confusing as hell, but it’s also fascinating and lots of fun. Reeves is happily back on “Whoa!”-friendly ground, and Downey and Harrelson are having a blast as two kooks who love to party. Care to join them?