Philip K. Dick’s 1977 cautionary tale of deleterious drugs and insidious government/corporate power gets a rotoscoping makeover in Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, which employs the filmmaker’s Waking Life visual schema – in which live-action actors and sets are covered by hallucinatory computer-drawn animation – as a means of amplifying its portrait of fluctuating, unstable identity. In a not-too-distant future marked by omnipresent surveillance, a cop named Fred (Keanu Reeves) goes undercover as a dope user named Bob Arctor to gain intel on a narcotics ring peddling the highly addictive, wildly disorienting, brain-damaging Substance D. When in the field, Fred wears civilian clothes, while at work he’s forced to wear a computerized costume (called a “scramble suit”) that displays a blurry series of human façades. It’s an imagistic disparity between clarity and opacity that parallels Fred’s mounting inability – once the drugs take hold, confusion sets in, and a grasp on reality disappears during conversations with friends Barris (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Luckman (Woody Harrelson), as well as romantic moments with coke fiend Donna (Winona Ryder) – to discern whether he’s Fred, Bob, or both at the same time. Reeves’ spaced-out demeanor is well suited to Fred/Bob’s bewilderment, and Downey Jr.’s fidgety, motor-mouthed performance (so compelling one can’t help but think of the actor’s notorious drug exploits) brings manic energy to the frequently static proceedings. Although the script’s reams of dialogue reflect Linklater’s fascination with the spoken word’s ability to both unite and alienate people, A Scanner Darkly is often dramatically sluggish, its conversational overload – while engaging on a moment-to-moment basis – proving to be a drag on its momentum. Such talkativeness would be significantly more wearisome, however, were it not for the director’s ability to tap into his source material’s atmosphere of unsettling paranoia, which gradually creeps into the film’s electrified fabric as it draws closer to its hauntingly unromantic finale and Dick-penned coda for the friends lost to drugs in ‘70s southern California.