A Scanner Darkly (2006) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Scanner Darkly (2006)



Critic Consensus: A faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel, A Scanner Darkly takes the viewer on a visual and mind-blowing journey into the author's conception of a drug-addled and politically unstable world.

Movie Info

Set in a future world where America has lost the war on drugs, an undercover cop, Fred, is one of many agents hooked on the popular drug Substance D, which causes its users to develop split personalities. Fred, for instance, is also Bob, a notorious drug dealer. Along with his superior officers, Fred sets up an elaborate scheme to catch Bob and tear down his operation.more
Rating: R (for drug and sexual content, language and brief violent image)
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Animation, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: Philip K. Dick, Richard Linklater
In Theaters:
On DVD: Dec 19, 2006
Box Office: $5.3M
Warner Independent Pictures - Official Site


Keanu Reeves
as Bob Arctor
Robert Downey Jr.
as James 'Jim' Barris
Woody Harrelson
as Ernie Luckman
Winona Ryder
as Donna Hawthorn
Rory Cochrane
as Charles Freck
Mitch Baker
as Brown Bear Lodge Hos...
Melody Chase
as Arctor's Wife
Eliza Stevens
as Arctor's Daughter
Sarah Menchaca
as Arctor's Daughter
Sean Allen
as Additional Fred Scra...
Cliff Haby
as Voice From Headquart...
Mark Turner
as Additional Hank Scra...
Angela Rawna
as Medical Deputy 1
Chamblee Ferguson
as Medical Deputy 2
Leif Anders
as Freck Suicide Narrat...
Turk Pipkin
as Creature
Wilbur Penn
as Medical Officer
Ken Webster
as Medical Officer
Hugo Perez
as New Path Staff Membe...
Christopher Ryan
as New Path Residents
Leila Plummer
as New Path Resident
Jackson Douglas
as New Path Farm Manage...
Alexander Jones
as Street Prophet
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for A Scanner Darkly

Critic Reviews for A Scanner Darkly

All Critics (181) | Top Critics (44)

The coolest thing about the movie version of A Scanner Darkly is how very literally it takes the scanner part of that title.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Top Critic

It is exhausting in its yammering, yes, but the very fact of its putting forth a vision of a future that's scented with bongwater, revolving around the axis of a sloppy living room, is enough to recommend it.

Full Review… | March 5, 2014
Stop Smiling

I got bored with the random diversions into the long-winded conversations of the drug culture.

Full Review… | January 19, 2014
7M Pictures

A Scanner Darkly is the most faithful Dick adaptation to date. Like Dick's writing, Richard Linklater's movie doesn't sweat at immersing itself in the trappings of sci-fi; it's concerned with ideas.

Full Review… | November 7, 2012
Empire Magazine Australasia

...not for everyone. It's a complicated film that requires patience and, most likely, subsequent viewings to appreciate the jigsaw view of control and paranoia.

Full Review… | April 20, 2011
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

In the end, it offers only the slightest of answers and the slimmest of hopes, because that is often all life offers as well. Whether anyone grasps that hope it leaves open for the audience to determine.

Full Review… | March 30, 2011

Audience Reviews for A Scanner Darkly

This film did not quite reach it's potential. Great source material, acting (casting!) and visuals but the storytelling is sluggish and muddled and there is little opportunity for the viewer to identify with any of the characters' multiple identities.

Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer

Rotoscoping is not a technique I had come across before, or since, so I have nothing to compare it to when reviewing 'A Scanner Darkly'. What can be said for certain however is that the film is beyond anything else beautifully made, and whilst a few shaky performances let it down at times, the underlying message of the film is injected right into the viewer's skulls.

Based on the book by Philip K. Dick, his most personal work, examining drug abuse and the way society treats drug addicts, 'A Scanner Darkly' tells the story of undercover cop Keanu Reeves, (hold on hasn't he done this before), as he infiltrates a 'substance D' group, a new drug everyone is addicted to. However as Reeves does so he himself becomes addicted to the drug and begins developing a split personality, forgetting who he really is. Linklater has always and will always remain an indie filmmaker, so its no surprise that 'A Scanner Darkly' did not deliver the goods at the box office, picking up little over five million pounds.

But more people need to know about this film and dig it out at their local independent dvd shop, for it is the only place you'll find it, because it is deserving of a viewing for both its visual and storytelling capabilities.

Whilst Keanu Reeves plays himself again, this time he does it quite well, whilst Robert Downey Junior and Woody Harrelson bring on the best performances to the piece. The story is difficult to follow, not of course helped by mind bending rotoscoping and confusing sci-fi items such as the suits the undercover police officers wear. However it is a terrific story, like all K. Dick material, which shocks you into considering the big questions in a dystopian yet highly relatable setting.

The issues of powerful totalitarian states, drug abuse, drug treatment and general paranoia are examined, never in too much detail, but with the right balance of black humour and seriousness.

Whilst I would perhaps like to see this story adapted in real life motion, the rotoscoping does more to add than take away from the material and viewing experience, creating an enjoyable film which hits higher than the average indie drama flick.

Adam Kelly
Adam Kelly

Super Reviewer


In 2002, director Richard Linklater delivered a, little-seen, gem of a film called "Waking Life". In this, he used an animation technique called 'rotoscoping'. Basically it was animation added over live actors. The results were highly effective and he decided to use the technique here, on this adaptation of Philip K. Dick's paranoid science fiction novel. Once again, the results are superb.
In the near future, Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) an undercover cop, is given the assignment to bring down a vast network of drug distribution dealing in "Substance D" - which is highly addictive and mind altering. He fully immerses himself in the lifestyle, to the point were he has become an addict himself and even his superiors don't know his cover story. As a result, they order him to spy on himself. Being under the influence regularly, it causes him to lose his grip on reality where nothing is clear anymore.
This was a film that had gained interest from a couple of notable players in the film business. Director Terry Gilliam ("The Fisher King", "12 Monkeys") was interested at one point and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich", "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind") had actually drafted a screenplay that was eventually unused. One can only wonder at what might have came of this adaptation had they been involved but that doesn't lessen the fact that Linklater has done a sterling job here. For a start, his decision to implement the "interpolated rotoscoping" animation again was a stroke of genius. On "Waking Life" it complimented the existential dream-like story and it is used similarly on this film. It's a technique that could be in danger of overuse but when the story and characters themselves are operating from an occasional surreal point of view, rotoscoping is perfectly fitting. It serves as a metaphor for the characters' drug induced alternate realities and allows us to identify with their paranoia and personal identity. You'd be forgiven for thinking that it might take away from the actors' performances but it doesn't. In some ways it enhances them. Reeves is an actor that has came in for some criticism throughout his career but he's really rather good here and the support, from Harrelson and especially Downey Jr, is excellent. Who better to be included in a film of substance abuse than a couple of actors who have dabbled in their time? The script is also very faithful to Philip K. Dick's writing. You can tell Linklater has invested a lot of his time in adapting, what is essentially, some of Dick's own paranoid thoughts - he was heavily involved in the abuse of amphetamines and psychedelics - and explores the usual themes involved in his novels; the sociological and political aspects of human society under the control of an authoritarian government. If your a fan of Dick's musings then you'll find them all here. The only fault with the film could be found in it's slightly lethargic pace but the visuals and thought provoking content are so astounding that the pace is forgiven. Sometimes Philip K. Dick's stories are not given the proper treatment in movies. There are stinkers like "Next" and "Paycheck" but this ranks very highly alongside the successful ones like "Total Recall" and especially "Blade Runner".
A thought-provoking head-trip of a film that delivers both intellectually and visually.

Mark Walker

Super Reviewer

A Scanner Darkly Quotes

– Submitted by Ram C (19 months ago)
– Submitted by Ram C (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Dann M (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Dann M (3 years ago)

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