Ever so rarely there is a moment in cinematic history when a film defies the captivity of its genre and explodes as a landmark of originality. Scanner is a sci-fi flick from director Richard Linklater, whom also created such independent classics as Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (1993). Yet easily as those prior films can be categorized as “coming-of-age”, Scanner transforms into more than its label represents. https://autoankaufuri.ch
At the start we are throw n directly in the mind of a paranoid and delusional junkie named Freck (played by Rory Cochrane) who is suffering hallucinations of “aphids” enveloping not only his body, but his poor unfortunate four legged friend, Millie, courtesy of a popular new narcotic, Substance D (dumbness, despair and death). Although fictional, entirely an invention of Philip K. Dick (the genius behind Minority Report and Blade Runner), appears to be a combination of all possible drugs available, highlighting their negative effects on the human psyche. From there we are introduced to Barris (an incredibly hilarious performance by Robert Downey Jr.) and could be primarily described as a know-it-all failure, so much to the point where he attempts to teach Freck how to obtain a gram of coke from an aerosol can. An urban legend that while entertaining is untrue.
He continually fails, later on with a “gun silencer” endeavor, made from everyday household appliances, that nearly deafens his dimwitted brethren. Paralleling Downey’s performance is Woody Harrelson as Luckman, another inhabitant of the same abode, whom while comically amusing, serves no real purpose in the traditional sense other than to further the paranoia of our stories hero, Fred/Bob (a surprisingly excellent Keanu Reeves), an undercover cop infiltrating this circle of addicts, and a drug-dealer by the name of Donna (Winona Ryder), who has a problem being touched, despite the fact the two are dating. Due to Fred’s double-life, there are moments when not taking on the persona of Bob Arctor the druggie, when he is required to disguise himself in a uniform dubbed the “scramble-suit”, described by one character as a constantly shifting vague blur.
Steadily Bob descends into a world of paranoid disillusion, believing someone is out to get him. Turning normal circumstances into conspiracy theories, including some humorous dialogue from Barris when a mountain bike he recently purchased appears a few gears short. Ranting of “gypsy grifters” and “albino shape-shifting lizard…” well, you get the point. Bob is losing himself and his mind as the two hemispheres of his brain compete for domination, one acting as Bob, the other, Fred. During “Fred mode”, he is a narc, working to capture Arctor, who he has been convinced by his superiors is “up to no good”, all the while as Arctor he tries to evade his pursuers. At moments, unaware they are one in the same.
Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr as the hilarious Luckman and Barris Scanner runs on a vast multitude of minuscule yet essential facts and details, watching it once can leave certain viewers confused by the minor inconsistencies and is better enjoyed in multiple doses. Although the central crux may get through, Linklater thrusts a majority of character specifics upon the audience’s lap to decide for themselves. Some might enjoy this freedom but many others will be troubled, simply wanting an established story, without the blanks.
Questions such as Fred/Bob’s true name, his past life and the full extent of the police department’s involvement in his psychological breakdown. Answers vary from one person to the next; their perception of each ingredient differs, quite possibly could be the beauty of this film. It is what you make it.