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Generally favorable reviews- based on 145 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 21 out of 145

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Dec 6, 2012
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. I went into this movie not really knowing anything about it other than it had Keanu Reeves in it and it was a movie about reality not being what it seems (hmm, where have I seen that idea before, cough, Matrix, cough..). I soon figured out it is a film about the Illuminati and the New World Order (I think) because the whole movie is filled with Illuminati symbolism on T-Shirts, in pictures on the walls, etc., and there is even a scene with Alex Jones shouting through a megaphone protesting the New World Order and getting tasered. Unfortunately, while that is a topic I love to see movies educating the public about, this movie fails to do that. My girlfriend saw this with me and after the scene of Alex Jones just popping up and getting tasered, she was like: "who the hell was that and what was that all about?". Now, I recently learned that this movie is based upon a novel written in 1977 about "monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, and altered states" according to Wikipedia. Now if the Alex Jones and Illuminati stuff was just added to the story to update it to today's conspiracy culture then actually that is kind of cool and I'm probably being too hard on it.

    But, either way, this movie is just a jumbled mess of a plot that does not make sense to anyone. The movie is about people on drugs, is this movie supposed to be interpreted as if you are viewing it on drugs? Because that is what this movie feels like to watch, a movie that is incomprehensible like you are watching it on a high dosage of morphine (without the nice buzz) after you recently had major surgery at the hospital. The animation overlay idea was cool, but really, the emotion of the actors and actresses was lost in translation, I'd much rather see the real facial expressions of the actors/actresses than just a scribbly sketch of them which makes the movie really boring.
  5. Nov 14, 2011
    This film is a jigsaw puzzle. It's certainly not for everyone, and it requires patience and possibly repeat viewings in order to be fully understood and enjoyed. The acting is superb from all the cast, but Robert Downey Jr.'s performance stands out as the best by far. The animation style adds to the surreal atmosphere and matches the disturbing dystopian setting perfectly. It is done in such a way that it doesn't detract from the story or any actor's performance at all, and merely serves to enhance the audience's image of the characters' paranoid, drug-addled minds. There's perhaps a little too much to take in the first time you watch it, and the plot is sometimes a little less than coherent. However, it stays true to the book, and the message it is trying to convey is clear throughout the film. Expand
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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

Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. 75
    This gifted writer-director isn't out to dull the masses with cinematic opium. Embedded in the visionary headtrip of A Scanner Darkly is a hotly political call to arms.
  2. 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.
  3. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Deeply intriguing but almost too-faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick's nightmarish 1977 novel.