The Singing Detective


The Singing Detective

Critics Consensus

Delightful performance from Robert Downey Jr. can't save The Singing Detective's transition from TV to the big screen.



Total Count: 108


Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,636
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The Singing Detective Photos

Movie Info

Dan Dark gives new meaning to the term "scars of childhood." A hack writer of detective stories, he has suffered from psoriatic arthropathy, a crippling disease of the skin and bones, from the time he was eight-years-old. His latest and worst outbreak has landed him in the hospital where he deliriously tries to figure out who he is and how he got to this terrible place in his life. His fevered mind mingles real people with his fictional characters, and his past with his present. As his condition grows more desperate, he is dispatched to the charge of the eccentric psychiatrist Dr. Gibbons. Initially reluctant to confront his tortured past, Dark is gradually lured out from the "cave in the rocks" under which his spirit has crawled. Dark is visited in the hospital by his ex-wife, whom he fears his sleeping with a character from his past and conspiring to steal the screenplay he wrote years ago of his first novel, The Singing Detective. But nothing is exactly what it appears here. In his hallucinatory state, Dark re-imagines the plot of his novel, casting himself in the starring role of a gumshoe who doubles as a singer in a dance band.

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Robin Wright
as Nicola/Nina/Blonde
Mel Gibson
as Dr. Gibbon
Jeremy Northam
as Mark Binney
Katie Holmes
as Nurse Mills
Adrien Brody
as First Hood
Jon Polito
as Second Hood
Carla Gugino
as Betty Dark/Hooker
Saul Rubinek
as Skin Specialist
Alfre Woodard
as Chief of Staff
Amy Aquino
as Nurse Nozhki
David Dorfman
as Young Dan Dark
Eddie Jones
as Moonglow Bartender
Lily Knight
as Woman Physiotherapist
Clyde Kusatsu
as Visiting Japanese Doctor
Andy Umberger
as Mr. Dark
David Denman
as Solider with Betty Dark
Alec Puro
as Dark's Drummer
Renn Hawkey
as Dark's Bass Player
Bryan Law
as Dark's Guitar Player
Rita Bland
as Dancer
Eva Mikita
as Dancer
Tasha Tae
as Dancer
Dani Wylie
as Dancer
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Critic Reviews for The Singing Detective

All Critics (108) | Top Critics (30) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (66)

  • ... it is just a little bit too much of a disjointed mess.

    Nov 17, 2003
  • When I saw it at Sundance, my attention was divided because I was trying to process the meaning of the jagged structure. Seeing it again a week ago, knowing what to expect, I found it a more moving experience.

    Nov 14, 2003 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • The Singing Detective has to settle for a hung jury.

    Nov 14, 2003 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • It stands completely on Downey's tragi-comic performance, although the rest of the cast -- particularly Penn and Gibson -- do good work as well.

    Nov 13, 2003 | Rating: B

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • Although the miniseries spent time developing the strands of the interwoven stories, the movie flits from idea to idea and plays like a chaotic, failed experiment.

    Nov 13, 2003 | Rating: 2/5
  • If the movie doesn't really work, it's because it's a hard piece to bring off, an extremely high mark to hit. Still, enough magic is left, especially in Downey's performance, to shock and beguile us.

    Nov 13, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/4

Audience Reviews for The Singing Detective

  • Nov 25, 2012
    A great performance by Robert Downey Jr., an early Katie Holmes role and a small part played by a heavily made-up Mel Gibson do their best, but they don't save this film from its sheer weirdness. Four words: lip-synched ensemble musical numbers. When it cut to action from the novel our hero (Downey Jr.) has written, I really liked the visual style, and overall, the story told in flashbacks is well-done, near-perfect noir, in fact; when it steps outside the frame, however, and tells the present day story - with the characters from the books interfering in some strange meta-fictional way - it loses its momentum, getting downright hammy in places. And then, there are the musical numbers... An ambitious film, but I'm not sure I mean it as a compliment; Joe Baltake probably said it best when he called this one an "interesting failure." Check it out, if for no other reason than this: it's different than most everything else you're watching.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2011
    Fragmented narrative, dreamy visuals, bizarre music scenes - none of that matters because no matter how confusing or stupid things get there's Mr. Downey Jr. letting everyone know this movie is his. His performance is remarkable as is the supporting cast. However, for all its gimmicky hipness that gets old fast and stays that way, sort of like Willie Nelson, 'The Singing Detective' doesn't seem to want to have depth or do much with the noir aspect, while treating the noir parts of the movie like a person who has seen maybe a dozen and read one Chandler novel. This could have been great.
    Jonny B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 05, 2011
    total mess of a film and a giant waste of talent
    Brendan N Super Reviewer
  • Mar 04, 2011
    The film is with the broad supports that are an exhilarating Robert Downey, Jr. and the solid lines he's given. However, the film unfortunately collapses under the pressure of little development, forced and poorly done musical numbers, repetition, inconsistancy and, of course, extreme underwhelmingness. In conclusion, the superb man of the hour doesn't quite keep the notes of "The Singing Detective" from falling flat.
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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