"A Scanner Darkly" is the latest film from Austin, Texas-based writerdirector Richard Linklater, who first made a splash in 1991 with his low-budget comedy hit "Slacker." Since his feature directorial debut, Linklater has proved to be a singularly eclectic filmmaker finding success in major studio films such as "School of Rock" without forgetting his indie roots.
Just as with his award-winning 2001 film, "Waking Life," Linklater is using live-action photography overlaid with an animation process called interpolated rotoscoping, which gives the film the patina of a graphic novel.
"A Scanner Darkly," which opens March 31, brings the late Philip K. Dick's thriller to life. It is set in a futuristic Orange County, at a time when the country has lost its war on drugs and has become so paranoid that two in every 10 Americans are hired to spy on the other eight. Of course, it's all in the name of drug enforcement and national security. Keanu Reeves plays a reluctant undercover cop named Fred who is assigned to spy on a drug dealer called Bob who is peddling a new, mind-blowing drug called Substance D. One of the side effects of the drug is that it causes split personalities -- Bob and Fred are the same person.
A cautionary tale of drug abuse, "A Scanner Darkly" is one of Dick's most personal novels -- it's based on several of his own experiences with mind-altering substances.
The film also heralds the big-screen return of two-time Oscar nominee Winona Ryder, who at this point may be better known for her appearances in courtrooms than in feature films. Two other Oscar-nominated actors who have had their own run-ins with the law, Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson, round out the cast.