Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics What's this?

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 136 Ratings

Your Score
0 out of 10
Rate this:
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Based on legendary science-fiction author Philip K. Dick’s own experiences, A Scanner Darkly tells the darkly comedic, caustic, but deeply tragic tale of drug use in the modern world. The film plays like a graphic novel come to life with live-action photography overlaid with an advanced animation process -- a method known as interpolated rotoscoping, first employed in writer/director Richard Linklater’s 2001 film "Waking Life" -- to create a haunting version of America, seven years from now. (Warner Independent Pictures) Expand
  • Director: Richard Linklater
  • Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Animation
  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 100 min
  • More Details and Credits »
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    The most impressive thing about the film's technical wizardry is, finally, how unimpressive it is. One doesn't leave the movie with a mind blown by visual bedazzlement but with a soul shattered by the profound sense of tragedy Linklater and company so beautifully put across.
  2. The brilliance of A Scanner Darkly is how it suggests, without bombast or fanfare, the ways in which the real world has come to resemble the dark world of comic books.
  3. 80
    There's no other filmmaker, living or dead, who could produce a futuristic sci-fi nightmare, a hipster comedy, a haunting film noir and a cartoon, all in the same movie.
  4. 75
    Turns out to be more ordinary than the recipe might suggest. Oh, it's dense and funny and assured, but it's also chatty and listless in a fashion that constrains a narrative film, which, however reluctantly, it is.
  5. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Deeply intriguing but almost too-faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick's nightmarish 1977 novel.
  6. Scanner is mostly all talk, and the talk is entertaining only when it's coming from Downey. The actor's long history of drug abuse taught him a thing or two about cooked behavior, and he gives some anxious run-on monologues that are very funny.
  7. Reviewed by: Duane Byrge
    Audiences will have to seek out their own peculiar diversions in order to last the whole course of this demi-dud.

See all 33 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 46 out of 65
  2. Negative: 14 out of 65
  1. Apr 9, 2013
    While maybe not as personally enlightening as Linklater's earlier 'Waking Life', but A Scanner Darkly is certainly an unmissable piece of cinematic magic that will not sit well with everyone, but will really stand out as a marvel in complex story-telling and engrossing noir style, all told in animation.
    Keanu Reeves plays detective Bob Artcor, who is an undercover cop deep within the Substance D universe, a powerful drug that has taken over America.
    When Bob is back at the station, he is disguised by a 'scramble suit' which constantly changes the appearance of every part of his body, the other cops also wear them to protect their identity from their colleagues.
    Bob has problem, which is his addiction to the drug, he spends his day with Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson) and James Barris (Robert Downey Jr) getting high and rambling endlessly through the day.
    Bob also hasn't realised the drug is slowly deteriorating his brain, which causes him to hallucinate outside of using the drug.
    His supplier, Donna (Winona Ryder) is an extremely damaged individual who never seems to be on a level head.
    Barris is a very shifty character, perfectly portrayed by Downey Jr, he is constantly suspicious of Bob and Donna's relationship and goes so far as to contact the police, unaware of the fact that it is Bob's alter-ego Fred who he is talking to.
    The cast is excellent here, with the standout performance of Downey Jr bringing an erratic and paranoid feel to the film, while the film itself is beautifully crafted to create a realisation of drugs and human behaviour, while also having a fantastic dialogue in typical Linklater style.
    What is most striking is the simplicity that the film attempts to create, almost saying that this will indeed become a problem and how we need to deal with it. The actual intelligence and thought-provoking nature of the feature really deems it unmissable for movie fanatics.
    The film is simply dazzling on all levels. It tells a clever and damaging story while also flickering in moments of humour which help the plot move forward, it can be quite puzzling at times but does require your full attention, because if you do you will be rewarded with a remarkable and gifted film., one, much like Waking Life, that will be difficult to forget, and certainly a shame to miss.
  2. Jun 7, 2011
    It feels like the Matrix before Neo finds out it exists.
    A lot of Keanu Reeves going around having a 'splinter in his mind'.
    Dark, depressing,
    sinister yet funny and artistic. I love it Expand
  3. Aug 7, 2011
    An amazing cast, with visionary ideas that scream of paranoia. Great visuals which make the audience feel like they are apart of this drug-centered dystopia. Many hidden meanings and plotlines lead to a more captivating experience and begs for multiple viewings. Interesting to say the least. Expand
  4. Feb 19, 2011
    Good animation flick. Im not to much of an animation movie fan but this has a good/wicked plot to it with a twist. Its a crazy animation that will leave some thinking wtf did I just watch. Its clearly NOT for everyone but for a person like me I enjoyed this flick very much. Expand
  5. Aug 28, 2014
    A strange, even weird movie. Half-way across it I started to wonder: "what's the plot? what's the idea?" By the time the movie ended, I was yet to find out.

    The film is entertaining, but confusing - mostly because there doesn't appear to be a strong plot in it. Things and people just pretty aimlessly move about, going on about things that don't really click together. Sure, there is a main thread they follow - paranoia, drug abuse - but it isn't plain or clear enough.

    Nice plot twist in the end that explains things a bit, but in my opinion it comes too late.
  6. Aug 15, 2013
    Mesmerizing visuals aside, Richard Linklater's "A Scanner Darkly" is a mostly unfulfilling crawl through meandering dialogue and some decidedly vapid events. Expand
  7. Feb 10, 2011
    Unfortunately so painful that me and my wife gave up after 17 minutes of watching this. This may sound dismissive but it is a rare occasion that I begin to watch a film and then give up (I even sat through Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3. Now thatâ Expand

See all 65 User Reviews


Related Articles

  1. Ranked: Movies Based on Philip K. Dick Stories

    Ranked: Movies Based on Philip K. Dick Stories Image
    Published: March 2, 2011
    "The Adjustment Bureau," in theaters Friday, is just one of many movies based on stories by writer Philip K. Dick. We examine Hollywood's fascination with the sci-fi author, from "Blade Runner" to "Impostor."